How Cater2Me's Focus on Community Led them to Replate
We recently spoke with Laura Madden, the West Coast Head of Market at Cater2Me, one of our largest catering clients, about her company’s commitment to fostering community ties and how partnering with Replate has become a natural extension of their cultural DNA.
What is Cater2Me and your role there?
Cater2Me connects local food vendors with companies that require catered services. We provide customized catering for large and small groups and tap into local vendors. The offices we work with get to [experience] a real flavor of the city that they work out of.
We’re approaching our one-year-anniversary together! How did you first get involved with Replate?
We were first introduced to Replate through one of our clients who was already working with you. We had actually been keeping an eye out for services like Replate, because we had worked with a couple of organizations that we were happy to support but were not quite as reliable and had pickup windows that were too long. So we were thrilled to be introduced to you all and get to know how you operate. We’ve been really thrilled by the consistency of service and the timeliness, as well as the easy to use platform, and just open communication frankly. It’s been really seamless and I feel like we’ve built a really strong partnership through regular check-ins.
You said you had tried out other food recovery services - why did you look to start donating your surplus food in the first place?
It was a combination of forces, starting with the feeling from Cater2Me that we need to be mindful and responsible of the excess food that comes from feeding large groups. There’s also a business value here - our clients were super interested in having an option for them to be mindful as well. Many of them are conscientious if not specifically green-oriented. It checked a lot of boxes and it felt like the right thing to do. We have both the responsibility as well as the pleasure of strong community ties. And so it felt like a natural extension of that, to be connected in yet another way to the communities that we serve.
Why do you think it's important to take action against food waste/food insecurity?
I feel like we could talk for a long time about that! On a personal level, I feel like it needs to be the responsibility of leaders in any industry to factor the community impact into where they operate. It comes down to us really respecting and treasuring the communities that we work in and as you may know, Cater2Me began with the relationships that our co-founders had with vendors at the Ferry Building Farmers Market. The core of our company has been in connecting. [Our co-founders] had been working in offices where their lunches were cold pizza - and aside from that just not being very desirable - realized there was such a missed opportunity of connecting to this incredible food mecca that is San Francisco, so long story short it really is in the Cater2 bones to be well-connected to the community. That is something that started from the very beginning, so food donation is a natural extension of considering our community relationships, not only when meals are planned but also when there are leftovers.
You’ve mentioned your clients’ inclination towards being conscientious - what was the process like to get your clients on board to have these pickups occur in their space? What was the pitch?
It didn’t take a whole lot of convincing, many have very specific green initiatives on an annual or quarterly basis. We’ve actually gotten to a point where rather than waiting to see when this becomes important to clients we’re actually introducing it as a part of our service when we meet with prospective clients [for the first time]. Most of the clients that we talk to are excited and interested in talking it through. The pitch is really straightforward. We have a lot of respect for Replate, a lot of them are really drawn to the idea that this can be a single vendor option because of Replate and Cater2Me working together so closely. It doesn’t mean yet another vendor for them but an extension of us, thanks to our tight-knit relationship. Not much convincing but more so educating.
It sounds like Cater2Me has always been super community-minded, but has Replate impacted your company and/or team in any way? If so, how?
We’ve really started to feel the impact as we go from one or two clients using Replate to having more and more and having it be a consistent part of what we do. As we’ve leaned into educating the team about your service and providing them with specific information about the impact and what Replate does, we’re starting to see more specific interest in terms of how we can align it with what we do day-in and day-out and how it’s impacted how we operate as a business. We’re really focused on not being wasteful - both with client budgets and with food, so now that there is more awareness of the impact, our local teams are more inspired and encouraged to team up and make sure we expand that impact to tap into our full client list to get more of them working with Replate.
What other steps is Cater2Me taking to make a positive impact on the community/planet?
We have developed a side program where we offer compostable flatware, because many of our vendors may have recyclable rather than compostable. So we’ve taken that a step further, rather than having flatware built into each order. It’s really become almost a suite of environmental services and more and more we’re seeing clients really embrace that. And clients who have the infrastructure capacity to order real plates and silverware - in addition to being mindful about surplus food, they can also be mindful of their paper waste. It’s not only less wasteful but a nicer experience for the team to eat off of real plates and utensils. We’ve seen their employees react really positively to that. Cater2Me walks the talk - part of our onboarding with new vendors is they come in and do tastings with our team so we actually understand what we’re serving. It’s important for us to embody what we’re encouraging.