ZeroCater Employee Spotlight: Andy Lavelle

As a part of our on-going Employee Spotlight series, we are recognizing the company value for August, Do Difficult Things. This value isn’t just about doing something challenging, but having the dedication to see projects all the way through. It’s about clearing the hurdles most people would shy away from — thus putting one more barrier between us and the competition.

These nominations are very competitive, because so many people across our organization embody the ZeroCater values in everything they do. This month the Company Value Award goes to Andy Lavelle.

Name: Andy Lavelle

Hometown: Kankakee, IL

Job Title: Marketing Associate

What that means that I do every day: On a day-to-day basis, I’m responsible for all things digital marketing related. I have my hand in tools like Google AdWords, Bing/Yahoo AdCenter, retargeting platforms like AdRoll, and automated marketing like Marketo. I’m often inside Google Analytics pulling stats, looking for traffic, conversion trends, and learning more about SEO. I also help in other areas like content creation, social, and overall marketing strategy.

Favorite food: Pizza. I could eat pizza for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Chicago Style, New York Style, Thin Crust, whatever!

Favorite cocktail: Old Fashioned. #DonDraper

My favorite thing about lunch: Well, here at ZeroCater we get free catered lunches. I truly enjoy collaborating over food. Our team mixes up chatting personally and professionally, and I really do feel more efficient than if we were going out to lunch daily, or brown bagging it.

Favorite restaurant: 6 Degrees in Bucktown, Chicago: Ever heard of a ‘Horseshoe Sandwich’? Texas Toast, 2 meats, rarebit cheese and topped with fries.

My most memorable dining experience of all time is: See above, after spending all day moving in hot weather, it was dinnertime. My girlfriend (now my wife!) walked me into a dimly lit, crammed, pretentious, overpriced, eclectic restaurant with communal seating. We quickly left there and walked into 6 Degrees and I had the best sandwich of my life.

Why I love ZeroCater: As somewhat of a picky eater, ZeroCater has really broadened my horizons when it comes to food! I love that ZeroCater backs up their belief that food brings people together. I get a chance to try the best of Chicago’s food every single day in the office, and love feeling like I’m contributing to building something big. While it’s a bit of a foreign concept now, I believe in five years that feeding employees as a perk will take over the city of Chicago.

 

How to Design an Office to Reflect Your Company Values

When we moved into our current office in 2014, we were on a mission to make our new home reflect our company values and culture.

With office space running scarce in Silicon Valley and San Francisco, this was not an easy task. The majority of available real estate consisted of dark, closed layouts, and low ceilings. As a company who feeds people for a living, this was far from the look and feel we were after.

Then we found it: an old, vacant warehouse which once existed as a grocery store in the 1930’s (fitting, right?). While the open space and high, wood-beamed ceilings were exactly what we wanted; some work was required on our part to give it the ZeroCater seal.

Our greatest asset has always been the people we employ. To help retain our top talent (and to make sure they love coming to work each day), we wanted our space to feel like home away from home. Everything we included, we included for one reason: to represent our values as a company. Below, we’ve outlined our company values at ZeroCater, and how we let them speak in brick-and-mortar form. If you’re looking to renovate your own office space, hopefully this sparks a few ideas!

We recently gave TC Cribs the grand tour of our office, check out the video of their visit!

Our company values, and how they are seen throughout our office:

1. Create delight

We’re a practice-what-you-preach company—we believe great companies feed their people, so we feed our own team. Every day, our team of 100 gathers around picnic tables set up in our kitchen. We all enjoy a sit-down, family-style meal together before returning to our desks. [Side note, we had crepes the day TechCrunch visited our office…jealous?]

2. Talk to customers

Our second floor (affectionately called The Madmen Room internally) contains a library of whiskey, a lounge, and roof deck. It’s one of our favorite areas in the entire building (if you watch the video, you’ll see why), and it’s a great space for entertaining clients and vendors.

3. Be a beast

We believe victories should be celebrated. In ancient times a gong was used to announce ceremonies. We celebrate new clients with a ceremony of our own by ringing an iron gong we keep in our office.

4. Move fast and keep a sense of urgency

We’ve never been fans of the office cubicle, which is why you won’t find one in our office. Ninety percent of our employees work in one room—without any walls or dividers. We wanted our team to feed off one another’s energy, which is why everyone works within the same space.

5. Iterate

We’re a company that promotes open communication. We have purposely designed our office space to include elements that spark conversation, from ping-pong tables to big comfy couches in the center of all departments. Rather than forcing conversation in cold boardrooms, we wanted our employees to feel welcome and encourage them to host impromptu meetings.

6. Prefer simplicity

One of our first goals as a company is to make lunch simple. We carry the value of simplicity down to the very walls of our workspace. If you look out onto the ground floor, you’ll see the original wood beams from the 1930’s in the ceiling, with the walls consisting of woodwork and cement.

7. Don’t make customers think

We pride ourselves on building lasting relationships with our customers. As you look around our office, you’ll see memorabilia from our customers everywhere—including photos, thank-you notes, and notes they’ve sent us.

8. Do difficult things

We are a work-hard, play-hard company. We challenge each other every day, but we know how to celebrate when our hard work pays off. Our cupboards are always stacked with our team’s favorite snacks, our kegs are tapped with tasty beer, and our mugs are filled with Jittery John’s coffee.

Want to see more of our office? Check out the photo album from our recent Client Appreciation party on Facebook!

Top 10 Chicago Catering Options For Your Office

To attract top talent, companies like Google, foursquare, and Sony are offering more unconventional office perks—free food being one of them. While catered office meals are seemingly commonplace in Silicon Valley, the idea hasn’t quite taken off in Chicago…yet.

At ZeroCater, we believe the best ideas happen over food. The day when your workplace provides you with free catered lunches is fast approaching, and we want you to chow down on the best Chicago has to offer. From an impromptu meeting meal to a weekly catered lunch, we’re here to help, so we’ve compiled a list of our most popular caterers in Chicago. We think lunch should be as fresh and diverse as our local food scene, so you won’t see any chains on our list. Some of these vendors are actually exclusive to ZeroCater.

Here’s our list of the top Chicago catering vendors we’d love to bring to your office:

Jarabe Mexican Street Food

Address: 2255 W Taylor St Chicago, IL 60612

This place truly shines when it comes to office taco bars, you’ll nosh on the tastiest carne asada burrito you could ask for. With an average 4.5 star rating on yelp, we knew we had to bring a taste of Jarabe to our loyal clients.

Falafill

3202 N Broadway

Lakeview was in need of a great falafel spot, and now they have it. Lunch from a chain restaurant doesn’t hold a candle to pitas, fresh hummus, and Mediterranean favorites. Spice up your lunch with a spread from Falafill!

The Smoke Daddy

1804 W. Division Street

A ZeroCater favorite, this Wicker Park staple does barbecue like nobody else. We always double-up on the mac-n-cheese tray, as it seems to bring out our inner child’s appetite. Pair it with a sweet and sticky pulled pork sandwich, and you’re guaranteed to have an office lunch nirvana.

Bountiful Eatery

3312 North Broadway

Looking for a healthy lunch? With an extensive menu, you could order Bountiful Eatery every day for months and lunch would still be exciting. Our favorites include their mindful wraps, bowls or salads, finished off with a refreshing smoothie.

Machu Picchu Restaurant

3856 N Ashland Avenue

While our office is partial to the paella, there is something for everyone with Machu Picchu. Your office mates will be fighting for seconds over their colorful assortment of tamales, plantains, and seafood.

Orso’s Restaurant

1401 N. Wells Street

Orso’s is a top choice for Italian catering in Chicago, with a near-perfect 5 star rating at ZeroCater. They are an easy way to make lunch hour exciting again, with dishes ranging from chicken vesuvio, to jalapeno gnocchi.

Tiparos Thai Cuisine & Sushi Bar

1540 N. Clark Street

When a client requests a unique catering idea, we always recommend Tiparos. Their Thai catering spread includes pad thai, chop suey chicken, roasted duck, and yakisoba. Rated over 4 stars on ZeroCater, Tiparos always impresses!

The Goddess & Grocer

1649 N Damen Avenue

A staple of the Chicago, The Goddess & Grocer offers everything from breakfast to boxed lunches. The owner, Debbie Sharpe, has been cooking her entire life and has even served stars like Justin Timberlake, Jay-Z, Paul Simon, Miley Cyrus, and more.

A Baker’s Tale

2127 W Division Street

Located in the trendy Wicker Park neighborhood, A Baker’s Tale has quickly become a client favorite for sweet treats. If you’re in the mood for something more savory, their quiche menu offers a delicious spin on breakfast too.

Simply It

2269 N Lincoln Avenue

Simply It’s Vietnamese menu is colorful, vibrant, and a feast for the senses. Healthy and light, Simply It offers dishes ranging from various bahn mi sandwiches, pho, and even appetizer friendly bites like skewers and eggrolls.

This is just a taste of the top caterers in the Chicago area that we offer. Here at ZeroCater, we offer corporate meal planning to companies looking to feed their people. Food is meant to be shared—bring your employees together by requesting a free consultation today!

D.C. Restaurants You Can Only Afford During Restaurant Week

In a city of $15 cocktails and entrees crossing the $30 mark, it’s easy to cringe when the bill hits the table. Restaurant Week offers us the opportunity to dine at places we would otherwise only dream about—when a meal priced upwards of $80 per person is slashed to less than half the price. If you’re looking for a true splurge this week, we’ve explored the list of 200 participating restaurants and collected those which provide the absolute best deal.

Know before you go:

Pro Tip #1: Although we’re halfway through Restaurant Week, many participants are offering their prix-fixe menus through Monday, August 31. View this list to see which restaurants are offering an extension.

Pro Tip #2: Most restaurants only leave a set number of seats for online reservations. When a fellow ZeroCater employee tried unsuccessfully to make a reservation for the number one restaurant on this list through Open Table, I suggested calling the restaurant directly. He was able to make a same-day reservation, for the exact time he requested.

Here’s our run-down of restaurants offering the best deals. Prices include a three-course meal, drinks not included.

  1. Fiola (Penn Quarter)

Voted the number one Best Restaurant in D.C. 2015 by Zagat, this high-end Italian restaurant typically offers a four-course menu for $95, with wine pairings an additional $75 (what a steal). Even if you order a ‘la carte, a simple garden salad will run you $18, and a side of potatoes costs $12.

Regular Price: $65 – $95

Restaurant Week Price: $22 lunch, $35 dinner

  1. BlackSalt (Palisades)

Potentially the most coveted restaurant within the Black Restaurant Group, BlackSalt is known for their rare seafood dishes, including several caviar plates costing $120 – $250 per ounce.

Regular Price: $65 – $90

Restaurant Week Price: $22 lunch only

  1. Sushi Taro (Dupont)

Ranked thirty-sixth in the 100 Best U.S. Restaurants by Forbes in 2012, Sushi Taro is known for their Kaiseki dining experience. While an experience, no doubt, a Kaiseki tasting ranges will cost $80 – $180, with drinks bringing the total to $245.

Regular Price: $80 – $145

Restaurant Week Price: $22 lunch, $35 dinner

  1. Tosca (Downtown)

A top-ten D.C. restaurant by Zagat, Tosca offers four-course meals starting at $85, with six courses approaching triple digits. If you’re on a budget, no worries—you can still order sautéed cauliflower for $8, or drink your dinner with a 4 course wine pairing for $65.

Regular price: $65 – $85

Restaurant Week Price: $35 dinner

  1. Kapnos (U Street Corridor)

Ranked as one of the Best Restaurants in D.C. 2014 by the Washington Post, this Greek restaurant offers a mezze spread averaging $14 for a tiny portion. Tasting menus run $65 – $85, while family-style entries run $38 – $79.

Regular Price: $65 – $85

Restaurant Week Price: $35

  1. Casa Luca (Penn Quarter)

Where an antipasti dish runs $28 and a simple side order of Swiss chard costs $10, Casa Luca may offer one of the best deals this week. Entrees You can receive an entire three-course meal at the same price as single item on the regular menu.

Regular Price: $65 – $85

Restaurant Week Price: $22 lunch, $35 dinner

  1. Zaytinya (Thomas Circle)

This year, all of Jose Andres’ restaurants are participating in Restaurant Week (except minibar…damnit). Zaytinya is recognized as one of the “Best Restaurants worth the Hype” and “The Most Important Restaurants in D.C.,” but their mezze sampling will cost you $55, with an additional $30 for drinks.

Regular Price: $55 – $80

Restaurant Week Price: $22 lunch, $35 dinner

  1. Rasika: (West End and Penn Quarter)

Named the third Best Restaurant in D.C. by Zagat, this modern Indian restaurant typically charges $8 – $14 for a simple side dish, and $50 – $58 for a four course tasting menu (with drinks running you another $30).

Regular Price: $50 – $75

Restaurant Week Price: $22, lunch only

We tried Fiola this week, where are you headed off to? Tell us your Restaurant Week plans in the comments!

 

Some Things are Meant to be Dirty, Lunch is not one of Them

A three-martini lunch is a leisurely lunch enjoyed by businesspeople or executives. A dirty martini is delicious—a dirty lunch, not so much.

The average smart phone carries 18 times more bacteria than a toilet seat in a public restroom. Your desk at work carries 400 times more bacteria than that same toilet seat. Actually, keyboards are one of the top five dirtiest instruments in our daily lives. When you eat lunch at your desk, alternating between typing and eating, you’re getting a side of bacteria with that email reply.

Sorry guys—desks occupied by male workers are more likely to be infested with germs than female workers. Work in the Golden State? Office workers in San Francisco had less bacteria on their desks than those in New York City.

What does this have to do with lunch? Everything. In a society where more and more of us rush to grab a coffee, type emails while brushing our teeth, run to catch the train, and eat lunch at our desks to get caught up on work—a midday computer-side nosh happens more than we’d like to admit. A recent study showed that nearly 83% of Americans consumed at their desks in one form or another (meals or snacks). Going out to lunch must be safer right? Wrong. Also, in the top five dirtiest items is the restaurant menu.

The true cost of a desk lunch comes in the form of bacteria, and while the types and amount may vary, it’s clear that this can impact your health. Leave the dirty desk and menu out of your lunch. When employees eat catered lunch, they don’t have to touch their cell phones because they are busy chatting and collaborating with co-workers over a tasty meal. They don’t have to eat at their desks and risk having their lunch contaminated. They don’t even have to reach for a menu. We take care of the ordering, the delivery, and the stress.

Sit back and enjoy a germ free lunch, every single day of the week.

The Highlight of Every Chicagoan’s Summer

Lollapalooza has come and gone. Evacuations, rain, Paul McCartney—sounds like a pretty standard music festival, does it not? Now we love romping around in Grant Park just like everyone else, but there is another festival that we crave each summer: Chicago Hot Dog Fest 2015.

Continue reading The Highlight of Every Chicagoan’s Summer

The Real Deal Behind Food Holidays

Does your Instagram feed ever get flooded with “National Hot Dog or Warm Apple Pie Day?” Just recently I’ve seen National Watermelon Day, National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day, and National Oyster Day—let us not forget that August 6th is National Rootbeer Float Day.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take any day to celebrate food, but the amount of random food holidays on the calendar is overwhelming. Seriously, how does one properly celebrate National Chop Suey Day on August 29th? Who the heck comes up with these holidays… and better yet, how?

Continue reading The Real Deal Behind Food Holidays

Vendor Spotlight: Rito Loco

Rito Loco is one of the most sought-after, well-known food trucks in all of D.C. Owners Daniel Diaz and Louie Hankins have been named Best Food Truck by the Washington Post and Miami Times (among others), while also being ranked nationally by Forbes Magazine, The Daily Meal, and the U.S. Health Food Council. We’re so honored to have them as a vendor at ZeroCater—keep reading for Daniel’s story on how they got started and what to expect from them in the future!

Be sure to keep up with the Rito Loco truck on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram; and visit their new storefront location in Shaw!

Continue reading Vendor Spotlight: Rito Loco

Does your desk catalyze your productivity? It should.

Whether you work in an office, your home, or somewhere else, it’s likely that you spend a lot of your day at a desk. Working on projects, answering calls, and brainstorming keeps many of us chained to our workstations. There is a direct correlation between your desk and your psyche—visual factors improve or diminish your mood.

Continue reading Does your desk catalyze your productivity? It should.