Jeff Bezos’ well-known quotation about ‘putting the customer first, invent, and be patient’ almost wholly applies to UK startup, Feedr. The only dispute Feedr’s founders, Lyz Swanton and Riya Grover, might have with Mr Bezos’ wisdom is that the need for patience proved to be only of relative importance, taking only took a scant four years to turn their business into a giant success.
With their flagship product “Cloud Canteen”, Feedr is a food tech start-up that offers high quality, highly varied, nutritious food to office workers, and has been acquired by Compass Group, the publicly-listed foodservice company for “in the region” of $24 million.
Feedr is the brainchild of Lyz Swanton and Riya Grover. Both saw that the benefits landscape was not keeping pace with changing customer preferences around food and nutrition, and that many workers struggled with overly processed high-street food options being the only things she could find to eat.
“For us it’s all about making certain that we offer food that is always good to eat and provided in a manner that is most convenient to the customer,” says Lyz, a 2016 LBS MBA alumna.
Lyz recognises that that the world of work and changes to eating habits are changing in a synchronous manner and sees Feedr becoming a flexible and integral extension to the modern office.
“The dynamics of the office will clearly shift and continue to alter but it won’t go away. However, there needs to be an attractive reason for people to want to come into the office. Having access to great food will be an important part of that equation.”
While the abiding importance of access to great food at work fits well with Feedr’s mission of ‘well sourced food for a modern workforce’, the growing awareness and commitment to supporting the company’s social mission is of equal importance.
While studying for her MBA, Lyz focused her studies on impact investing and social entrepreneurship. During her MBA, Lyz worked at the CDC Group plc, working on the DfID Impact Acceleration Facility, Impact Funds initiative. Working to deploy high-impact equity and debt capital in key industries across Africa and South Asia through direct investment in growing businesses, Lyz evaluated and recommended new investments, primarily in healthcare and agriculture.
Lyz has carried forward her commitment to nurturing a social mission dimension to her work, inspiring the, ’Meal for a Meal’ project. With every meal ordered with Feedr, a donation of a nutritious meal to a schoolchild in rural India is made. The project came about in partnership with The Akshaya Patra Foundation, a charity which strives to tackle the issues of hunger, malnutrition and education by providing freshly cooked, nourishing meals through the ‘Food For Education Programme’ in India and ‘Beat the Hunger Programme’ in the UK.
“I am very aware that we serving the needs of people who are inherently more privileged, and so the idea of a ‘meal for a meal’, and providing nutritious food to, in particular, young girls in poor developing world communities is key to our mission.”
Ensuring that Feedr’s food is responsibly sourced and that the company’s supply chain is carbon neutral are also of key importance to the identity of the company.
With regard to the acquisition by Compass, it is Feedr’s mobile ordering and pre-pay technology that proved to be one of the biggest draws. Compass plans to apply Feedr’s unique software across its portfolio of corporate clients, with further potential applications of the technology in education and healthcare sectors. Feedr’s technology leadership will enable Compass to transform the way people interact with on-site restaurants, so employees can browse menus, pay and collect more flexibly, enhancing their food at work experience.
Feedr’s focus on nutrition and health means employees can use the company’s app to track and personalise their daily eating, helping them make healthier choices and giving them a better picture of nutrition from the meals they consume at their workplace. This offers companies a way to put wellbeing at the heart of their food at work strategy.
In addition to adopting Feedr technology, Compass will invest in growing Feedr as an independent brand that will continue to operate in the delivery market with its Cloud Canteen product, with Feedr leveraging the Compass global platform to accelerate its growth.
The timing of the acquisition has enabled Feedr and Compass to collectively support vulnerable populations during the COVID crisis, launching a first initiative in early April, where free Compass meals were connected to vulnerable customers’ homes using Feedr’s technology in Ireland. In addition, Feedr launched a home delivery solution for its existing customers, flipping its usual business model on its head. When employees begin to return to work in volume, Feedr will use its technology to support social distancing and eliminating queues through unique click and collect initiatives in workplaces.
Lyz says that what has worked particularly well with the Compass is that the identity and mission of Feedr has been retained. Speaking about the rapid success of the company, Lyz acknowledges the importance of serendipity and sheer good luck, although shrewdness, integrity and market insight have clearly more than played their part.
Reflecting on her transition from employee to starting and running her own business, Lyz reports that it was never about bravery, rather an enduring need to forge her to pursue her own purpose and forge her own direction.
“Working for yourself provides you with the permission for pause and reconsideration,” she says.