Jason Gries and Price Harding were unhappy with the issues they encountered when trying to order Chinese takeout.
Unlike the pizza industry, many Chinese restaurants don’t offer steamlined delivery services, there are sometimes language barriers and some restaurants don’t even have online menus.
“Chinese food is loved by many people but many people avoid it because of the hassle factor and the inconsistent experience and food quality issues and so forth,” said Gries, a former General Electric executive who has since launched three startups.
The duo launched the on-demand company in 2012 but Gries said it has gone through several iterations and has since found its niche: business catering.
The company has about 26 restaurant partners in 10 U.S. cities with more than 450 business clients. Foomanchew plans to debut in eight to 10 new markets over the next year and Gries sees plenty of room for growth in what he believes is a $20 billion Chinese food industry.
Technology innovation in the food industry is nothing new to Nashville, where at least nine on-demand services such as UberEATS, OrderUp, Postmates, Doorstep Delivery and Favor are vying for market share. Food delivery is an increasingly crowded sector nationwide, fueled by high consumer demand.
According to a Morgan Stanley report, roughly $210 billion of the $500 billion restaurant industry is food eaten off-premise. The delivery market accounts for about $30 billion of the total pie.
But Gries and Harding knew they needed to differentiate Foomanchew. The company chose to instead focus on business catering, such as company board meetings and training sessions, and now 90 percent of Foomanchew’s business comes from this sector. It gives companies a catering alternative to popular chains like Panera Bread and Chipotle.
“We’re not an online ordering company. We’re very much our own brand, our own customer experience, we just tap into existing restaurants that meet our quality criteria,” Gries said.
Foomanchew operates by finding restaurant partners to essentially operate as contract kitchens to serve Foomanchew’s streamlined menu with its own pricing structure. Customers then place orders via Foomanchew’s website, app or by telephone.
For example, in Nashville, customers can choose from 10 different base entrees priced at $6.25 from China One on Lebanon Pike, including chicken with broccoli, general tso’s chicken and kung pao chicken.
Gries said the company significantly pares down the number of Chinese restaurants in any given market — he said there are roughly 125 in Nashville and 600 in Atlanta — by finding the ones with the best health inspections and highest consumer ratings.
“We carefully hand select only the highest quality restaurants from our network that we have to basically be contract kitchens for us. All of our restaurant locations have high health inspection scores, high consumer ratings and we basically train and use technology as our tools to make sure that restaurants can execute efficiently with on time delivery and high service levels,” Gries said.
Moving forward, Foomanchew plans to tap into more home catering opportunities, such as birthday parties, graduation parties and other events.
SOURCE: The Tennessean