noon on a cold, blustery workday. You’re famished, but you don’t
feel like bundling up to leave the office. And those 3-day-old
leftovers you brought for lunch have long lost their appeal.
What if you could sample a variety of cuisines from
local restauranteurs at lunch time, all in the cozy confines of your
workplace? A fast-growing startup in Milwaukee is helping area
office employees do just that.
Founded in Chicago in 2011, Fooda launched in
Milwaukee in February 2018 with the vision of connecting local
restauranteurs and hungry consumers through pop-up locations at
office buildings and employers. To date, Fooda has pop-ups in more
than 20 downtown and suburban sites.
“We contract with office building management and
employers to supply grab-and-go lunch service in their locations,
bringing in a constantly revolving group of local restaurant
partners to serve fresh, affordable food,” says Claire Connelly,
pop-up account manager for Fooda Milwaukee. On a given work week,
customers can sample sushi, Mexican cuisine, Greek food and gourmet
grilled cheese — all served up quickly, giving workers more time to
eat and socialize with their precious lunch hour.
Shyu is owner and operator of two local Asian restaurants, Tanpopo
Ramen & Sushi in Hales Corners and Greenfish Poké, located in the
Mayfair Mall food court. Becoming a Fooda partner has expanded her
clientele to people who never would have otherwise tasted her food.
“This week, we served almost 80 people during one lunch at the Chase
Center,” she says.
Like other Fooda restaurant partners, Shyu serves a
fairly small menu as food items need to be largely prepared ahead of
time and served quickly. “This week we had several varieties of poké
— the tuna on fire [poké] is always a big hit — and also tested a
new item that we don’t have on our restaurant menu yet, an umami and
pork bowl. That one sold out!”
Shyu says that the partnership with Fooda not only
increases her bottom line by growing her lunch business, but also
gives her a way to test the market and connect with customers. “We
always bring our business cards to our Fooda pop-ups,” she says,
“and we invite customers to come and visit our restaurants.”
“Today at our pop-up I saw two people who came into
Tanpopo in the last week,” Shyu reveals.
Driving business back to local restaurants is part of
Fooda’s mission, and their data shows that one third of Fooda
customers will visit brick and mortar locations of its vendors.
Fooda partners like the Gouda Girls food truck, Artisan Ramen,
Margarita Paradise and Ouzo Cafe are reaping the rewards.
service is a boon for employers too, who find that employees
increasingly want fresh, healthy and affordable food options as part
of their work perks. Fooda makes it easy. “Because Fooda operates on
a revenue sharing basis with restaurants, employers can offer it to
their employees at no extra cost,” says Connelly.
Fooda considers itself a tech company, gathering a
multitude of data including what vendors and items are most popular
at different locations, and even estimating how many customers can
be expected at a pop-up on a given day.
“We get pretty close most days,” says Connelly. “Our
data lets our restaurant partners plan for how much food to prepare
and helps consumers by making their favorite restaurants show up
more frequently at their workplaces.” An app and email communication
keep customers up-to-date on the rotating restaurant schedule, lets
them preview menu items and prices, and offers coupons and rewards.
With Milwaukee in the midst of a food renaissance,
people are hungry for variety and quality. Thus, Fooda’s growth in
Milwaukee has outpaced many of its other startups.
loving it,” says Connelly. “To be able to explore Milwaukee’s foodie
scene right from your home base — especially in the winter — has
people really excited.”