We had the good fortune of connecting with Zachary Yungst and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Zachary, is there something you can share with us that those outside of the industry might not be aware of?
Everyone knows the service industry — and particularly the food service industry — is extremely challenging, but I think outsiders probably don’t realize that this business also requires constant innovation to keep up with the demands of our marketplace. Of course, we’re always thinking on our feet and adapting day-to-day, but we’re also required to think bigger picture: how do we deliver additional variety, more consistency, new service methods, and more intuitive technology, all while food costs are increasing, competition in the space is at its historical peak, and expectations for “team lunch” are ever evolving? And that was all true BEFORE Covid-19 hit. Since March, the need to innovate has reached new heights. Over the past few months, we’ve conceived of, developed, and rolled out multiple new product offerings, all to meet the demands of the nation’s in-office and at-home workforces. As we roll out these new offerings, we’re continuing to listen to our clients and the broader marketplace for ways we can help adapt to — and to some extent shape — the future of our industry.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I’m the co-founder of Cater2.me, and since 2010, we’ve helped thousands of companies build culture and manage their employee meal programs by connecting them with authentic, local food providers. I started the company with my co-founder, Alex Lorton, after being underwhelmed with the catered lunches at my office job and seeing all of the untapped potential in San Francisco’s growing food scene. We set out with the goal to turn workplace meals into a time to bond with colleagues while also helping introduce authentic, local food vendors to new audiences. Our start was not at all easy: the two of us did everything on our own out of our apartment. We slowly picked up clients and restaurant partners through a combination of hard work and extreme dedication to personalized client service. Over the years, we grew our team to more than one hundred full-time employees, serving clients in more than eleven markets across the country. To this day, our personalized touch, attention to detail, and close relationships with our vendors are what sets us apart from competitors. I’m most proud of sticking to our original goals of only working with local food providers while helping clients realize the potential that meals can have on team morale and office culture. There are many unknowns in our industry right now, but moving forward, I’m most excited about the expansion ideas our team has been working on to allow us to serve clients in new ways.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
While Cater2.me operates out of a local office in Los Angeles, my co-founder, Alex, generally oversees that office and has the occasion to travel there more frequently than I do. Having said that, when I do have the opportunity to go, I love the eclectic vibe of Downtown, which happens to be where we opened our Cater2.me office. My favorite places to hit up are Grand Central Market for affordable eats, Grand Park for outdoor relaxation, and the Arts District for the amazing mural scene. I love biking and anything fitness related, and I’ve been told to check out The Strand next time I’m in town. I’m also looking forward to checking out the views at Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook and hiking in Griffith Park.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are a lot of groups who have contributed to Cater2.me’s success, but I would like to specifically recognize our local food vendors who are the core of our business. My co-founder, Alex Lorton, and I started our company ten years ago because we were so inspired by the incredible offerings that were both right under our noses while also flying below the radar. We wanted to help these local food businesses — many of which were owned by immigrants and other underrepresented communities — reach new audiences in the startup and corporate worlds. We have been working with many of our vendors for several years and have built amazing relationships with them, but we also love discovering new food partners to introduce to our clients.
All images are owned by Cater2.me.