Phoodeez catering raises $600k, led by Project 11

Phoodeez caters large-scale corporate functions and small-scale luncheons by supplying food from multiple local restaurants. Workers at Litmus, an e-mail analytics firm in Boston, enjoyed a Phoodeez lunch in July.
Phoodeez caters large-scale corporate functions and small-scale luncheons by supplying food from multiple local restaurants. Workers at Litmus, an e-mail analytics firm in Boston, enjoyed a Phoodeez lunch in July.

Katie Rae was at an MIT conference when a familiar thought crept into her head: “How quickly can I duck out of this boxed lunch and go get real food?”

“But I peeked into the box and said, ‘Wow, this actually looks good,’ ” she recalled. “That was my introduction to Phoodeez.”

Now Rae’s venture capital firm, Project 11, is leading a $600,000 investment round in Phoodeez, a Boston startup that caters corporate functions by supplying food from multiple local restaurants that specialize in different types of cuisine.

Instead of preparing Mexican, Italian, and Mediterranean dishes in one kitchen, Phoodeez might serve up burritos from the MexiCali Burrito Company, pasta from Trattoria Andiamo, and baklava from Aceituna Café.

The theory is that a caterer can provide a better spread from a bunch of specialists than from one generalist trying to cook everything.

Phoodeez co-founders Christine Marcus and Sal Lupoli — known locally as founder of the Sal’s Pizza chain — have been bootstrapping since they launched the company in 2012.

Businesses pay Phoodeez to manage their catering, and restaurants pay monthly fees for the extra revenue Phoodeez brings in. In addition, Phoodeez receives volume discounts on restaurant food but can charge regular menu prices on its website, enabling the company to turn a profit on every dish.

About 40 restaurants are on the site, including four in Washington, D.C., where Marcus spent five years as deputy chief financial officer at the US Department of Energy before earning an MBA at MIT. She and Lupoli met as classmates at Sloan.

The venture funding will enable Phoodeez to expand its team (Marcus, Lupoli, and two interns comprise the current core) and possibly add restaurants that typically don’t cater. Right now, Phoodeez takes the orders, but restaurants must deliver them — a responsibility that prevents some mom-and-pops from joining the network.

As part of their expansion plans, Marcus and Lupoli are thinking about how Phoodeez could take over delivery duties and make things easier for customers, too, by deploying a catering attendant to deliver and describe dishes from several restaurants all at once.

“We are going to create a Phoodeez experience,” Marcus said. “Standardizing the presentation is hard to do when you don’t control the whole supply chain.”

“That’s why the delivery person is also a marketer — they represent Phoodeez,” Lupoli added. “They’re going to bring in the food and roll out the red carpet.”

Cal Borchers is a business reporter for the Boston Globe. Reach him at [email protected].
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