Written by Pierce Lydon • September 15, 2022
Here at CaterCow, the Fall of 2022 marks 10 years of operation. We’ve had a hell of a journey!
Time flies when you’re catering lunches, breakfasts, and happy hours for awesome customers and partnering with amazing restaurants. We’re super pumped to see where the next 10 years takes us! If you’re interested in learning about where we’ve come from, read on for a quick history of CaterCow!
Believe it or not, we actually started out as an underground supper club platform called Gusta. Human connection through food was always at the heart of the idea. Gusta was built to connect foodies with up-and-coming chefs who didn’t want to be bogged down with all the logistics of event planning.
While being a supper club platform was hip, it never took off as a business model. The coordination and logistics of the many moving parts in a successful dinner party made it hard for the company to take off. As the months passed, we found more and more of a product market fit within a niche, but growing, office catering space.
Those early days were tough! In January 2014, one of our founders spent a few days dressed up in a cow costume roaming around Union Square in New York City, giving $1 bills to anyone who would check out a CaterCow demo on his iPad.
At the time, we thought it was a failed initiative but to our pleasant surprise, one customer actually reached out in 2019 saying she remembered us from back in the day (if you’re that customer and reading this, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org and mention this for a gift from us)!
We were not an overnight success, and we certainly weren’t perfect! In fact, during the early days one story that stands out is a Thanksgiving fiasco we caused. One of our catering partners had a personal emergency and had to bail on making a Thanksgiving delivery. Without the turkey, we felt utterly embarrassed. Not only did we buy them a turkey dinner from somewhere else, but we delivered a bouquet of flowers to do our best to apologize.
The old days of hustling and doing whatever it takes to put a smile on everyone’s face marks the way we operate today - tirelessly working with our local restaurants to support them while making sure behind the scenes that everything goes as flawlessly as possible for our customers. Everyone in the community is an important part of the CaterCow herd!
With time, dedication to quality, and plenty of luck and support from our community of customers and restaurants, we started to see the fruits of our efforts! Our team grew and CaterCow began to evolve and expand into new cities nationwide starting in 2015. Our reach now includes New York City, the San Francisco Bay Area, the Boston Cambridge area, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington DC.
Of course, the pandemic hit in 2020 and we felt it just as much as the restaurants and customers who we loved to serve. Our revenue tanked 99% as pretty much every single order was canceled!
With not much “real” business to do during those days, we focused on supporting our struggling restaurant partners and the frontline workers in hospitals who were working day and night to fight COVID-19. We created the CaterCow Cares program as a means to donate meals to the tireless hospital staff from our restaurants, sending a message to the industry at large: even when we’re down as a business, we can still do our best to make a difference.
With a renewed focus, we took this as another opportunity to evolve or become extinct. In addition to CaterCow Cares, we worked on improving our product. We removed clunky text box inputs for more streamlined ordering experiences. We became more mindful of the types of menus that customers wanted to order from and we tried to anticipate what a post-COVID catering world might look like. After all, we were working from home - what if the office catering niche we had found wasn’t there for us in a year or two’s time?
This led to another pivot in approach. Most catering orders before 2020 (over 80%) were primarily ordered buffet-style. But the pandemic changed that as customers asked for more individually-packaged meals to limit cross contamination or exposure from sharing family-style trays. As a result, we had to work with restaurants to make sure they were optimized for the new needs of our customer base. Even as monthly revenue has returned, we still haven’t seen buffet-style menus ordered at the same level as before the pandemic.
We also briefly experimented with an offering called Fare that was meant to compete with on-demand delivery options like Grubhub and DoorDash. Unfortunately, that was a bridge too far for us. With the limited resources we had and the myriad of challenges presented by the on-demand model, it wasn’t something we were able to confidently move forward with, but it was still worth the time experimenting!
Throughout the pandemic, we were fortunate Uncle Sam was gracious enough to lend us a hand with PPP and EIDL loans. We have spent time building our team back to meet the demands of a growing customer base as vaccines and variants have changed the landscape on a seemingly month-to-month basis. And we’ve also greatly improved our product - group orders, improved search functionality, extra portioning, and additional account management options have made the CaterCow of 2022 something that we could not have imagined in 2012. In fact, this year we have had the best months in CaterCow history, surpassing our pre-pandemic highs!
The last decade has not been without its challenges, pitfalls, and learning experiences but it’s come with rewarding memories, lasting relationships and partnerships, and incredible meals as well. As we look forward to the next decade, we are excited to find out what’s next for us, our restaurants, and our customers.
Thank you for sticking with us whether you've been ordering since the early days or are a new customer. We'll continue moooooooving forward together :)