A Norfolk startup is making it easier to order meals for workplace meetings or business functions.
Cater Boom has attracted about 60 caterers to its online ordering and delivery platform so far, and is actively marketing the service to customers with a primary focus on business catering. A smartphone app will be released in the coming months, founder and CEO Shaun Kistler said.
The strategy is to grow first in the firm’s backyard across Hampton Roads with a natural expansion to Richmond, across Virginia and to Washington, D.C., Maryland and North Carolina, Kistler said.
“Our goal is to become a national company,” he said.
Cater Boom works with restaurants and caterers to curate menus its customer base is looking for, like assembling items together as breakfast, lunch or dinner combinations to make it easier and faster to order, Kistler said. Items can still be ordered a la carte.
There is no cost for restaurants or catering businesses to join Cater Boom, he said. Food vendors pay a commission for each order, Kistler said. Cater Boom doesn’t mark up prices or add surcharges. Customers pay what the caterer charges, he said.
Caterers can use their own delivery service, although vendors can deploy Cater Boom’s vetted third-party service to deliver, Kistler said. Having access to that service could help caterers grow without having to pay additional van and equipment costs, he said.
Cater Boom can use its database to help clients find caterers for larger events, too, Kistler said. A percentage of sales through Cater Boom is being committed to the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore, he said.
Cater Boom works with a staff of four from the BizConnect Hampton Roads building on West 21st Street in Norfolk. The firm promotes participating businesses on social media and at events, he said.
“I love other small businesses,” Kistler said. “I love the entrepreneurial ecosystem here in Hampton Roads, and I want to design a business to help them, too.”
Kistler spent 10 years in medical sales and wished for a better way to order and pay for the three to five lunch meetings he had at doctor’s offices each week.
“I built a business to solve my own frustration,” he said.
He started the company last year and has been pitching his concept at regional entrepreneurial events. He brought on a colleague as a partner and chief technology officer and officially launched the Cater Boom brand in April. He welcomes customer and vendor feedback to improve the platform.
Brutti’s Catering on High Street in Portsmouth signed on as a vendor as another avenue to get customers, said owner Charles Greenhood. The 27-year catering business plans to add a separate Cater Boom page for its spinoff business BagelNutz, cream cheese-filled bagel balls with a variety of toppings, Greenhood said.
“As they grow, it’ll help us grow,” he said.
With so much competition in catering, such a platform could help small or new caterers gain more of a following, Greenhood said.
Colin McNulty, an investment adviser with Frieden Wealth Management in Virginia Beach, has used Cater Boom several times to order food for the firm’s lunch-and-learn events with clients across the region. He likes being able to find caterers by location and messages Cater Boom online for suggestions on what to order. For instance, a suggestion of a breakfast casserole reduced the cost, he said.
He’s also glad to serve food from local businesses, which is different and better quality than the typical chain offerings.
“It’s turned out really well,” McNulty said.
For more information, visit CaterBoom.com.
From Inside Business
By Tara Bozick
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