If you’ve ever worked for a company that caters buffet-style lunches every day, then you’re familiar with the 11:30 rush. Hordes of people line up in an attempt to get all the good stuff before its gone. Heaven forbid you’re in a meeting that lasts till noon and all that’s left are tepid tacos or congealed carnitas.
Bay Area startup Forkable wants to change the way companies offer lunch perks by using smart recommendations to deliver individual lunches instead of the massive buffets. In doing so, Forkable believes it can help companies can be more efficient with providing lunches, reducing food waste and making employees happier with their meals.
Here’s how it works. Each week, Forkable offers menu items from roughly 10 different restaurants in a particular area. Companies that sign up for Forkable have employees fill out a brief survey to determine any allergies and food preferences. Then, every Friday, employees receive a notification with their Forkable-suggested meals for the following week. Employees can accept the pre-selected suggestions, or substitute a different choice from a participating restaurant menu.
Forkable has been billed as an AI-driven lunch ordering service that can automatically and intelligently select the right meal for you. But even Forkable co-founder Nick Naczinski admits that this buzzwordy description isn’t exactly what the service does. Forkable lets users rate every meal they receive; based on these ratings, the company can better tailor an individual’s lunch order.
So it’s more like Netflix recommending a movie than Watson combing through massive data sets.
Launched in 2015, Forkable is currently available in 10 markets including the Bay Area, Manhattan, Seattle and Austin. Naczinski confirmed that the company has raised more than the reported $813,000 in funding, but wouldn’t offer specifics, saying only that they have not done an institutional round yet. He also declined to provide any customer numbers, but says Forkable is “consistently profitable and growing.”
Last year, the company focused on improving its technology, and Naczinski says that this year, Forkable is focused on scaling to more markets nationwide. In doing so, it will need to fend off rivals like Seamless and Caviar. It will also have to contend with upstarts like AllSet that are flipping the script and giving employees options to leave the office to visit restaurants on their lunch break.
Having brawled through my share of office lunch buffets, Forkable’s model of automated tailored lunch ordering seems like a good way to reduce food waste and increase employee satisfaction. As it makes its national push, we’ll see if Forkable can really deliver.