A conversation with Lunchbox CEO Nabeel Alamgir
The outspoken direct ordering evangelist promises to (mostly) cool it on the trash talk.
Lunchbox, a direct ordering company for restaurants, announced a $50 million Series B round of funding on Tuesday. The company did not disclose its current valuation.
Here’s a conversation with the company’s co-founder and CEO, Nabeel Alamgir, known for his outspoken dislike of Grubhub (still there!) and his insistence on Lunchbox’s benefits for restaurant brands. He talks funding, staffing, third-party woes, and why his b2b company spent so much effort on rebranding itself. Oh, and also his company’s metaverse restaurant which will soon be for sale on OpenSea.
This conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Expedite: Congrats on your funding announcement today.
Nabeel Alamgir: Thank you so much. Really appreciate that.
I feel like I've learned a lot about what Lunchbox isn't. As you like to say, you're not Grubhub. A quote from one of your investors in the press release today said you don't take a pound of flesh from your customers. Can you tell me what Lunchbox is today?
Alamgir, who calls himself a “notorious screen-sharer” 1 shares his Series B slide deck.
NA: Lunchbox is trying to fix two problems. The first one is that third party companies are expensive and bad for restaurants. It's clear everyone gets that universal truth. Second is that building your own ordering system [as a restaurant] is really hard, really expensive. The company we love to emulate is Sweetgreen. They are my heroes. They're investors of ours. I was trying to literally copy them when I was at Bareburger2.
Lunchbox is the all-in-one solution for online ordering, incredible design, and amazing marketing. The marketing part is the one that needs more detail. Most restaurants in the country do 18 percent direct ordering. Our customers do 49 percent direct ordering. We've saved over $35 million already in third party fees. We have a live calculator on the website3. And the marketing component is this: which is we know if you stopped coming in, we know if you're vegan. We know if you like third party ordering DoorDash or GrubHub, then we find you on Facebook and retarget you. We can send you a direct mailer, this is what we are. Our goal is to be an incredible digital storefront that tries to engage with you and has some of the essence of what you have built with your brick-and-mortar. We build Sweetgreen’s system for everyone. That's our goal.
How many restaurants are you working with now?
NA: We're working with 100-plus logos4. we work with multi-unit chains only, you need to have 10-20 locations. We will be at 400 logos by the end of the year. Our biggest competitor right now has 400.
Who’s your biggest competitor?
NA: I didn’t say it out loud but they have like every top restaurant out there, right? They just went public last year5. So they have 400, we’re going to have 400 by the end of the year. We’re challenging the mid-market first, but we’re slowly going to expand in both directions.
That was my next question. One of the things the funding is earmarked for is expanding to both smaller and larger restaurants.
NA: Yeah, expanding to both, helping more restaurants. Number two, bring on incredible talent. We just brought on Kieran Luke, our COO, from General Assembly. I can’t believe he joined us, he built General Assembly and can now help us fix this place — it’s still messy, still young, it’s still figuring out how to walk. And third, we’re trying to continue to build a digital storefront outside of just commerce.
Something we’re doing next week is we are launching and selling the first virtual metaverse restaurant. Imagine a Taco Bell, you can walk around, and you can order food. We’re selling that to the restaurant industry, to whoever wants it. We’re pushing it out next week. We want to really push what ordering means and what digital commerce means.