Buyk, the fourth rapid grocery delivery company to launch in New York City this year, hired restaurant veteran James Walker as its new CEO. Walker brings more than 30 years of hospitality experience to the company, and was previously the senior vice president for restaurants at Nathan’s Famous.
The move represents a major step for Buyk, which launched its operations in New York City in early September, and is planning a rapid rollout to several additional U.S. cities.
Walker takes over the job from Slava Bocharov, a co-founder of the company. He and fellow co-founder Rodion Shiskov will continue to provide strategic direction to the company and run its fundraising efforts. I’ll be “focused on the day-to-day operations,” said Walker, including hitting the company’s “aggressive growth goals.”
While at Nathan’s Famous, Walker oversaw the opening of nearly 300 ghost kitchen locations both domestically, and internationally, which Buyk said demonstrates “his experience in scaling a concept into a global, profitable enterprise.”
Walker was also involved with the consumer products business at Nathan’s Famous on an “international basis,” including the brand’s first vegan and halal hot dogs and opening manufacturing facilities in Germany, Brazil and the United Arab Emirates. Bocharov told Food On Demand that private-label products were a key part of Buyk’s plan to achieve positive unit-level economics.
Aside from Nathan’s Famous, Walker also has senior management experience at Baja Fresh, Cinnabon, and Subway. In his role at Subway, Walker was instrumental in launching Subway North America’s delivery program, partnering with all four of the major delivery service providers. He said the challenges at Subway were largely technology-based, but “the challenges at Buyk are different … it’s about building an agile, passionate and customer-focused team at scale and at pace.”
“I’m thrilled to join Buyk at such an exciting time,” Walker said. “I’ve been highly impressed by both the company’s early success, as well as the proven expertise and track record of the founders. Add Buyk’s unique technology to the mix and you can see why I felt compelled to become part of the Buyk team. I am confident I can bring great value to the company and drive our fast-growing operations to meet our ambitious goals.”
Slava Bocharov, co-founder of Buyk, said, “We’re excited to have James join the Buyk journey. We feel that his expertise and experience in scaling businesses and bringing them to new markets are a valuable asset, and totally align with our goal of making Buyk a household name, first in the US, and then globally. Crucially, James shares our vision regarding the future of retail and is determined to help Buyk lead the revolution in this industry.”
Bocharov and Shiskov previously founded and ran Samokat, a St. Petersburg-based rapid grocery delivery start-up. Buyk is built on the technology they developed for Samokat, and the tech team there is a “shared resource,” said Walker.
According to a recent press release, Buyk has expanded coverage to include Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. It opened its 20th dark store earlier this month. The company has been hinting at a national expansion since its launch in early September, and the website shows job postings for an area manager in Washington D.C. and store managers in Chicago.
While Samokat’s technology is a clear advantage for Buyk, it isn’t the only company bringing international experience and tools to bear on the U.S. market. Gorillas, a German rapid grocery delivery start-up, is active in NYC, and Getir, a Turkish rapid delivery startup, recently debuted in Chicago. Per Crunchbase, both companies have raised at least $1 billion, while Buyk has raised $46 million. The co-founders have their work cut out for them.