After attracting a cool $100 million of investor cash to be used to fuel international expansion, the Boston-based ezCater acquired GoCater, a Paris-headquartered corporate catering platform.
Shortly after the news broke, we spoke with ezCater Founder Stefania Mallett who said the French acquisition was the first move as the company works to establish further beachheads across Europe.
“We have always said we would be international,” she said of the company’s open-book expansion plans. “The people we acquired have proven to be, in just a short time, very capable, very insightful, very engaged and what we think of as excellent tour guides to lead us into the next market and into the European Union.”
Taking me inside the four walls of a company overjoyed to attract a nine-figure payday, Mallett said the company’s bank account is currently “quite lovely,” but was careful to note that she and her leadership team have very specific uses for every dime of its latest haul.
“We could be profitable tomorrow if we simply decided to grow a little less aggressively, but we choose to grow faster because we see ways to put more money to work, to continue to grow at a faster clip than self-propelled growth,” she said.
For the last few months, the company has focused on putting more developmental energy into giving its restaurant clients better tools to assist in managing the catering side of their business, fulfilling orders and handling the back-end details to make it all click, without error and always on time.
“There’s so much cleverness and creativity going into what we’re building, Mallett added.
Asked how the GoCater deal came together, Mallett shared a revealing moment when GoCater Founder and CEO Stephen Leguillon called her and, in her words, was dancing around the issue.
“‘Look, neither of us have time for this. You’re calling me up. Do you want me to buy you or are you going to buy me?” Mallett said she asked. “He burst out laughing, said ‘I don’t have the money to buy you, so would you consider the alternative,’ so I said ‘Get your butt on an airplane.’”
As GoCater is smaller than its new parent, Mallett said the new French business wouldn’t be a significant contribution to its bottom line right away, but that it will be a platform to sequentially move from one European country to the next. She added that she receives such calls on a near-weekly basis, sharing that her latest was from a catering entity in Thailand.
GoCater itself has been acquiring hundreds of new restaurant partners across France and Germany during the last two years. Now part of ezCater, GoCater will further expand its partner network and add European locations of popular U.S. restaurants and popular independents in its respective markets.
With money flying around and international fact-finding calls becoming the norm, Mallett likened the current restaurant catering market to the Oklahoma land rush of 1889, with investors and catering pioneers piling into the space.
Looking beyond its latest expansion, she sees continued upside in catering with the widespread interest cementing her view that demand for corporate foodservice to keep expanding, especially given the opportunities it provides restaurateurs for added revenue that can be easier to manage than direct-to-consumer orders from third-party delivery providers.
“We have more than 60,000 restaurants on our platform that are ready to take our catering orders,” she said. “We curate for reliability, so if you are reliable, if you think you run your operation well and can reliably get food, the right food on time to the right location, you should embrace catering because you’ll make more money—you should come to us, and we’d be happy to be your marketing arm.”
Putting some stats to the hype, data from Technomic shows business catering sales in the U.S. growing twice as fast as overall restaurant sales during the last four years to a total of $22 billion. GIRA Foodservice estimates the European corporate catering market has topped $17 billion.
At present, ezCater partners with more than 60,000 restaurants including national brands such as California Pizza Kitchen and Firehouse Subs. Its corporate clients include AstraZeneca, Redfin, Tesla and, according to the company, “90 percent of the Fortune 500.”