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Local Start-Up Solves Lunch Hour Dilemmas

From the Stanford campus to Silicon Valley campuses, Eat Club is the inclusive membership that will send lunch right to your cube.

Have you ever found yourself at your desk, it’s 2p.m. and – gasp – you realized that you have forgotten to lunch?

There’s a young company in town that hopes to solve this common lunch hour debacle, Eat Club.

Created by two Stanford MBA graduates in 2010, Eat Club is a food and technology start-up serving lunch to working professionals in the peninsula and South Bay.

“It’s about helping people find something special to eat,” said Jennifer Doan, an Eat Club food team member. “People don’t like to see the same menu every day. We work to keep it unpredictable and mix it up.”

Co-founders Kevin Yang and Rodrigo Santibanez started this tradition of mixing it up while still attending Stanford’s MBA program. The two teamed up to form a campus organization focused on sharing food which came to be called Eat Club.

While serving the appetites of fellow students, they also began developing case studies in food delivery services.

Empowered by the growing popularity of their campus club, a newfound knowledge base in culinary services, plus a master’s degree in business to boot – Yang and Santibanez launched their Eat Club start-up the Monday after graduation.

“We serve offices, but we start with individuals – that’s our value prop,” said Santibanez.

Yang added, “We’ve learned a lot about what our customers want. So, we put up a curated daily menu with food that appeals to the broad spectrum.”

Until now the Eat Club service model has been aimed at individuals. With no minimum orders, delivery fees or gratuity – this is unlike most catering service models.

Jennifer Cheung would agree that in secluded office parks along the peninsula, lunch options are few and a service like Eat Club does fill the gap.

“It just takes so much time to drive around looking for food,” said Cheung. “Since [Eat Club] expanded the menu items per day, it’s great.”

Cheung is an Eat Club client from Achogen, a peninsula-based biotechnology start-up company. Achogen is one of a few Eat Club members which uses the lunch service for a company-wide staff of about 60.

Using the food delivery service for 7 months, Cheung says she has seen Eat Club change and adapt to meet their clients' needs.

One of the latest developments Cheung has taken advantage of is a “feedback link” on email order invoices which allows the customer to provide instant feedback to Eat Club via an online form.

“They are really great with customer service, and they make things so easy,” said Cheung.

The latest innovation in the Eat Club user experience launched just last week – a mobile ordering platform for smartphones.

According to co-founders Yang and Santibanez, with e-commerce trends leaning toward mobile transactions the duo would not be surprised if their business were to be completely mobile-based within the year.  

Technology trends are clearly something that Yang and Santibanez keep an eye out for, gaming trends included. The Eat Club office is stocked with video games (including an e-drum kit), for much needed work breaks, as well as an ever rotating iPod playlist.

With Yang coming from a background in bioconsulting and Santibanez from retail finance, the two encourage their close-knit team of engineers and foodies to work hard but have some fun at it too.

“The thing that ties these people together is food,” said Yang of his employees.

“We want to make [the Eat Club headquarters] a place where people have fun and enjoy coming to work,” added Santibanez.

Santibanez says the office “playlist is inclusive” which calls to mind a democratic work environment, just like the you-ask-for-it-and-we’ll-put-it-on-the-menu philosophy Eat Club offers to customers.

“We have more reviews and data points than there are on Yelp,” said Yang. “The best source of our [restaurant partners] is from our members.”

Yang points out that this benefits Eat Club’s restaurant partners as well. If customers enjoy the food, Eat Club will continue to use the restaurant for future menus.

Another trend in the bay area restaurant scene has been to use online deal sites to discount a dining experience in hopes of drawing in new customers, namely Groupon.

Yang questions if this model creates returning customers or if individuals in that market will seek another deal and move on to another, competing restaurant.

“We need to be sure the restaurants make awesome food,” said Santibanez. “Our menu is self-improving every day.”

About the author: Anastasia is a contributor to San Mateo Patch, a freelance writer and social media gal living in San Francisco, and she keeps a personal blog of her musings on food and fashion at infoodiefashion.com.

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