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Zesty hires Nate Keller, Will Douillet to ramp up healthy corporate catering

TechCrunch TechCrunch 24/05/2016 Lora Kolodny

Food delivery startup Zesty is rolling out its office catering service beyond San Francisco to locations throughout the Silicon Valley peninsula, and has brought on two food and hospitality executives to support its expansion.

Joining Zesty as Director of Food is Nate Keller, formerly Executive Chef at Google who oversaw its growth from 400 to 400,000 employees, and was the founding executive chef at Sprig. Also joining the startup as Director of Service and Hospitality is the former Senior Director of Operations of Michael Mina’s restaurant group, Will Douillet.

Since its inception, Zesty has promised to bring Google cafeteria-grade meals to employees of small and medium sized businesses that can’t afford full-time chefs, and don’t have commercial kitchens at their disposal.

Keller said he appreciated Zesty’s mission to “improve the way humanity eats,” and the challenge of working for a fast-growing company that doesn’t currently make its own food.

“Right now, the chefs that work with Zesty form an ad hoc community. I’d like to provide more of a platform for chefs to work together and learn from each other. And I’d like for us to provide better services to help chefs make healthier choices for the meals we are serving and their customers in general,” Keller said.

Zesty sends nutritionists to consult with local chefs who tweak or create recipes that will appeal to diners in an office setting. The recipes they develop tend to be for meals that are low in sugar, oils, or other ingredients that can cause workers to feel sluggish instead of energized after they eat. The menus they develop are also careful to include options that are allergen-free or suited for vegan and vegetarian diners.

The startup then handles delivery, serving and clean up of the prepared foods on-site at offices, allowing chefs and their kitchen staff to get back to making tasty dishes for the diners who come through their doors.

Zesty CEO David Langer said the company also uses algorithms and data analytics for menu planning, and to predict and optimize logistics.

Langer says it could make sense for Zesty to someday prepare some of its own meals. Having Keller on the Zesty team would certainly make that imminently easier. But the company will always prefer to source as much of its meals as possible from local restaurants, and help those restaurants “keep the lights on,” Langer said.

Mr. Douillet was not immediately available for an interview. But the CEO says Zesty’s new hospitality lead will be responsible for figuring out what the company’s “Catering Captains” can do to delight customers wherever they deliver prepared foods.

“Nobody has really looked at corporate catering through a hospitality lens,” Langer said. “We want to elevate our hospitality to the very highest standard.”

Differentiating itself as the nutrition-focused option, Zesty competes with traditional corporate caterers, and startups like EATClub, Cater2Me and ZeroCater, which also work with local restaurateurs to deliver meals to offices.

Zesty has raised $20.7 million in venture funding to-date, and is a graduate of Y Combinator.

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