Order up: Why these founders launched their startup out of a deli

by John Siegel
September 28, 2017

They say it's hard to do a good job on an empty stomach, but that's not quite the reason one local startup decided it's first headquarters should be a table in a deli.

Meet Ordermark, an online ordering management system for restaurants founded by Paul Allen, Alex Canter, Mike Jacobs, Ric Murillo and Rhett Fahrney in January 2017. The startup spent its first few months of existence headquartered in Canter’s, the famous delicatessen located on Fairfax. Though the team has since outgrown the bustling restaurant, that access to the food and service industry provided the exact kind of information they were hungry for during the company's launch.

“Everything I knew about restaurants before we started the company, I threw out,” said Jacobs, the company’s COO. “I had experience frying chicken fingers, but an actual restaurant experience is a lot different than that kind of enterprise.”

Working inside the deli didn't just give the founders access to some of the best sandwiches in all of LA — it also provided them insight into what is really required for a old-school restaurant to fulfill 1,900 online-ordered meals per week. 

Ordermark offers restaurants a way to aggregate deliveries received from companies like Grubhub and DoorDash onto one platform, going as far as providing a specialized printer that can better support kitchen staff as orders fly in from across the internet.

“When someone decides where they want to go to dinner, usually it’s not just because of the food — it’s about the experience,” said Daniel Harry, director of account management. “A lot of these experiences are diminished when people go out and spend time in traffic, have a hard time parking and then have to wait. It's a lot more appealing to customers to stay at home with their 70" television and PlayStation 4 and wait for Grubhub to drop off their food from their favorite restaurant than it is to go out and do it themselves.”

Recently, investment firm Cowen forecasted a 79 percent surge — a jump from $43 billion to $76 billion — in the number of U.S. food home deliveries in the next five years. 

“Restaurants are starting to pick up on the fact that while they want to retain their loyal customers, they need to be able to deliver the food in a new way,” added Jacobs. “As the world changes, they have to find a new way to deliver their product to the market.”

Before stepping into startup land, Jacobs used his master’s degree in sociology as an analyst for the FBI, Allen spent time at giants like Adobe and Quicken Loans, and Canter ran business development for the deli of the same name. According to Jacobs, Canter’s experience in helping the restaurant become an early adopter of food delivery services is invaluable.

“Grubhub and UberEats both approached Canter’s pretty early on, and that eventually grew to 12 online ordering platforms, plus a couple of catering platforms,” Jacobs said. “Having someone on the team who not only has experience with these services, but actually implementing them at a restaurant is amazing.”

Now headquartered in Santa Monica, Ordermark recently raised a seed round of funding of about $800,000. With the funds, the company, which just surpassed the 20 employee mark, plans to hire aggressively, specifically for sales and software positions.


Images via Ordermark and social media.

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