Ordering food in D.C. has gotten a lot harder, but not in the way it used to be. Being out of your favorite restaurants delivery zone sucked, but at least it simplified things. Now, no matter where you live in D.C., you can get almost anything your heart desires, for a price. From Shake Shack to Rasika, if you have a craving for it, someone will deliver it to you.
The problem now is picking a service. There’s Caviar. Uber Eats. Postmates. Door Dash. Grub Hub. And even more options if you want non food items, alcohol, etc. And now, there’s a new one in the mix. HUNGRY will deliver you a delicious, warm lunch (get the shrimp kathi rolls, you will not regret it), but instead of ordering from a restaurant, you’re ordering from a professional, and occasionally famous, chef. Allowing consumers to have access to foods that aren’t available anywhere else.
We sat down with HUNGRY’s Director of PR, Pardis Saremi, to chat about what makes HUNGRY stand out in a sea of other food delivery options. And why you should use it to order lunch on Monday.
How did HUNGRY start?
Our founders actually came up with the idea when they were on their lunch break at their previous company. It was located in a food desert, so they were kind of used to all the same fast food and take out options. They were going out to lunch one day and they realized they wanted some authentic cooking. Something created by a top chef, but without having to go to a really nice sit down restaurant. They did some market research and they realized there were people similar to them, who were looking for access to these top personal chefs in the form of a delivery. They chefs, on the other hand, were already providing that service. They were already creating the meals and selling them, there was just this market place that was the missing link. So that’s where the idea for HUNGRY came about. So that’s where it came from. They wanted to make this market place where chefs were making their own culinary creations, setting their own schedule. Basically democratizing the personal chef. Giving people access to really delicious food made from professionals in the food industry, but at affordable price points. All of our lunches start at $10, which is pretty standard, but if you think about the fact that the chef who is cooking your food works at a top restaurant in the area where you would have to get a reservation… It really lowers the barrier of entry for chefs and for foodies who are trying to get access to really amazing food.
How did you get involved with the company?
I heard about it through a friend who was already working there. I was really excited, honestly, about working for a startup. It’s something I feel like everyone should do, especially when they’re young. You learn a lot about yourself… and then on the other hand, I consider myself a foodie. Everytime I go to a new city the first thing I do is explore the food scene and the restaurants and that sort of thing. So that caught my interest right off the bat.
What do you look for in a chef you’re going to partner with?
We do have a vetting process for our chefs. There’s standard requirements like they have to have worked in a licensed kitchen or restaurant for three or more years, they have to have a culinary degree. Once they pass those requirements then we bring them in and we do food tastings. We basically check their background. Where they’ve worked, references, that sort of thing. Just like any job, but there is certainly a vetting process to make sure we have top quality chefs.
What are some of the most popular things people order?
A lot of the foods that are really popular are actually foods that are unique to the app. The foods that you can’t really find in restaurants, which is why I think a lot of people are attracted to them. They’re things like Chef Rakesh’s Kathi Rolls, which is kind of like an Indian street food. Then we have things like Chef Stacy’s Pho-rito, which is a really trendy thing in the food space right now, and you can only find that on the app. It’s really popular on the west coast but no restaurant has really started serving it. Foods like that. Trendy food items, street food items. Those are the things that do best on the app and people really love to eat them.
What’s a normal day in the office like at HUNGRY?
It’s totally chaotic as you would image. Everyone is super busy, running around. There’s always a million things to be done, like at any startup. What’s really amazing is that everyone in the company is willing to take on multiple roles. If anything comes up, everyone is willing to help out. You walk in the office and we’re onboarding chefs, we’re doing food photography in the kitchen, we’re closing out catering deals, we’re working on press deals. It’s just totally these spinning gears that never stop.
What does your delivery map look like at this point? Do you cover all of DC?
Yeah, we cover all of D.C. Parts of Northern Virginia, mainly Fairfax county, and then Montgomery County in Maryland.
Awesome. Are there any plans to expand?
We actually just closed out our round of funding and one of our investors is based out of New York. So that will likely be our next move in 2017. They have a really great food scene and the people in that area are very willing to try new things. It’s a younger crowd, especially Manhattan and that’s our target market. The people there are always willing to try new things and new foods and New York is usually one of the first few places to take on food trends.
If you could work with any chef, who would you choose?
Oh. Good question. Maybe Jose Andres? He’s huge and he’s a huge D.C. advocate. And we really do pride ourselves on being a hyper focused local company. We’re from this area and we love repping that in the same way he does. That would be a match made in heaven.
What’s your favorite part of working at HUNGRY?
Besides the fact that we have food in the office every single day, I guess the fact that there’s a lot of flexibility. You can play any role you feel you fit into best. We have great leadership here, so everyone in the office is constantly learning. There are great leaders to look up to. It’s just a learning environment, which I really enjoy.
What’s the most challenging part of working at HUNGRY?
I don’t know. It’s long hours, but you don’t really notice that until you’re closing a project and looking back. You bust your butt, but it is really rewarding. It honestly is.
Tell me about the app you guys have. What are your favorite features?
Well, the app is a smart app, which basically means it learns your ordering preferences. You can filter out by dietary preferences and by type of food, allergies, all of that… and then the more your order the more the app learns from you. It will pick up on the fact that you’re vegan or vegetarian and recommend those kinds of foods for you and will filter those kinds of foods you like to the top of the feed. So you’re not swimming through these options every time, they’ll kind of pop up there at the top. It will also learn your favorite chefs. So any time your favorite chef has put up a new menu item, it will send you a notification and tell you to try that out. It makes it pretty easy because we do have a lot of food items in the app everyday, and it make it easier to sort through them.
What do you think really sets you apart from other food delivery options like Cater2Me or Postmates?
I would say our exclusive access to top chefs. No one out there has the market we do. We’re creating a new space in the food world where you’re seeing the food that you’re ordering, but you’re basically ordering from a chef. You can see where they’ve worked and their credentials. Instead of being attracted to the name of a restaurant, the brand is really in the chef and that’s a whole new concept that we’re creating.
Do you think that’s something consumers can differentiate? I guess depending on how foodie you are, what does it matter if you’re ordering from a restaurant or ordering directly from that restaurant’s chef? How are you guys making that difference apparent?
90% of millennials care about what’s going into their food. So we’re playing on that right now by giving people a list of ingredients that’s going into their food. You go into a restaurant and you’re not really getting that. You’re getting the background of a chef, it’s a sort of knowledge you’re getting about the food you’re eating that you don’t get outside of HUNGRY.
Cool. Anything else going on that you guys are particularly excited about?
We just got our website ordering up and running. Before we were only available in the iOS App Store, but now we’re available for website ordering, so you can just go on line. In terms of chef’s we’re excited about, we’re working with top chef Adam Greenberg, who is also part owner of Barcelona. We’re working with previous White House chef Patrice Olivon. We are in a couple of talks with a couple big chefs in the food industry and a couple based out of New York, but I think we’re going to save those names until it’s official.