Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn.
HUNGRY still has an appetite for growth.
The Ballston-based food tech startup acquired its third company in as many years.
HUNGRY offers an online catering marketplace connecting companies with local chefs. Last week, it announced the acquisition of California-based healthy snacks company NatureBox, which delivers its products to homes and offices, and has its own private-label bulk snacks.
“NatureBox’s healthy snacks will be an outstanding complement to HUNGRY’s business-catering solutions, creating a game-changing combination of exceptional quality and service,” HUNGRY co-founder and CEO Jeff Grass said in a statement. “Companies right now are looking for one partner to handle all of their in-office food, snacking, and beverage needs, and now more than ever, HUNGRY is that complete partner for them.”
NatureBox, which has served over 3.5 million consumers and thousands of corporate clients, previously raised nearly $60 million in funding, a press release said.
“We’re proud to join forces with HUNGRY, and we’re excited that now even more people will be able to enjoy our amazing, healthy snacks all over the country,” NatureBox CEO John Occhipinti said in a statement. “We’re grateful to Jeff and the whole HUNGRY team for believing in what we’ve built and taking it to the next level.”
The acquisition furthers HUNGRY’s national reach and increases its healthy options.
Outside of the D.C. area, HUNGRY is available in Philadelphia, Atlanta, Boston, New York City, Austin, Dallas, Los Angeles, Nashville and San Francisco.
During the pandemic, it brought Nationals Park fan favorites to customers’ doors when the stadium was closed. It has since ended that partnership as fans are able to return to cheer the baseball team on in person.
HUNGRY has grown quickly over the last two years, earning a spot on the Deloitte Technology Fast 500 and debuting at No. 434 on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies in 2021. It also was named one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies and Best Workplaces for Innovators.
Last year, it raised $21 million in a star-studded funding round, bringing on board actress Issa Rae, “America’s Got Talent” host Terry Crews, NFL player DeAndre Hopkins, NBA player Lonzo Ball and boxer Deontay Wilder.
Previous HUNGRY investors include Jay-Z’s Marcy Venture Partners, Kevin Hart, Usher, Todd Gurley, Bobby Wagner, Ndamukong Suh, and celebrity chefs Tom Colicchio and Ming Tsai.
Boutique market, cafe, and convenience store Foxtrot is expanding into Rosslyn, looking to open its first Arlington outpost this fall.
Foxtrot, which opened its first D.C.-area location in Georgetown only a year ago, is moving into a ground floor retail space in the Highlands development at 1771 N. Pierce Street, the company announced yesterday (Thursday). Foxtrot expects to be open by “early fall.”
Foxtrot is an upscale corner store, market, and cafe that also focuses on delivery, making much of its inventory available for delivery in under an hour. That means everything from Fruit Loop Snickerdoodle cookies to White Claw hard seltzers can arrive at your door.
The Rosslyn location is one of four new Foxtrots that the company announced yesterday, including two in D.C. and one in Maryland, all of which are projected to open by the end of the year. That will make eight Foxtrots locally, including an Alexandria outpost that just opened early last month.
The menu will be the same in Rosslyn as the others, a Foxtrot spokesperson tells ARLnow. Decor will vary from location to location and is dependent on the neighborhood, though there will be some similarities across stores.
“Whether it’s a renovation of an older building or a new build, the spaces are designed to blend into the neighborhood and have a sense of place,” the spokesperson says. “Foxtrot’s new DMV-area stores will continue this model, with each site uniquely designed while still supporting the brand’s day-to-night atmosphere and incorporating signature design elements like concrete floors, hospitality lighting, wood paneling, warm color palettes and local artwork.”
Foxtrot Market was founded in 2014 and is based in Chicago, but has since expanded to the D.C. area and Texas. It recently raised $160 million and plans to open 50 stores across the country in the next two years.
The Highlands development in Rosslyn, the ground floor of which Foxtrot is moving into, completed construction last year. It features three residential towers, a park, a new fire station, and 40,000 square feet of retail space.
Police Holding St. Paddy’s Event — “On Friday, March 18 from 8-10 p.m., join officers on N. Hudson Street at Wilson Boulevard in Clarendon for the Don’t Press Your Luck anti-drunk driving event. This event is free and open to the public and is designed to highlight the effect alcohol has on motor skills.” [ACPD]
Sub Suspended for Russia Rant — “Arlington Public Schools has suspended a substitute teacher who, during a Spanish class, expressed approval of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine and urged students to read Russian-run propaganda outlets. The substitute, John Stanton, 65, made the comments during an eighth-grade Spanish lesson on Friday at Swanson Middle School.” [Washington Post]
How to Help Ukraine — “Arlington and Ivano-Frankivsk were formally declared sister cities on March 4, 2011… The Arlington Sister City Association has identified the following trusted organizations as providing a variety of services to the Ukrainian people. Please consider helping our friends during this difficult time.” [Arlington County]
Local Foster Dog Delivers — From the Animal Welfare League of Arlington: “If you order through UberEats, keep an eye out – Orlando might be your delivery-dog! Orlando loves joining his foster mom on delivery runs, and always sings along to the songs on the radio. We give him a 5-star rating!” [Twitter]
‘Freedom Convoy’ May Be Coming — “The U.S. protesters inspired by the self-styled ‘Freedom Convoy’ that occupied downtown Ottawa for weeks headed out from Southern California last week for a cross-country trip to the D.C. region. They plan to arrive this weekend, and Virginia State Police describes the convoy as a “still-fluid situation.” [Washington Post]
It’s Friday — Clear throughout the day. High of 46 and low of 26. Sunrise at 6:37 am and sunset at 6:06 pm. [Weather.gov]
For the second time in three days, a food delivery driver was robbed last week by a knife-wielding man in Westover. This time, however, an arrest was made.
The first incident, as previously reported, happened last Tuesday around noon, on the 5800 block of Washington Blvd in Westover.
“The victim was delivering food items to the suspect’s residence when the suspect opened the door and allegedly produced a knife and demanded that the victim leave the items,” an Arlington County Police Department crime report said. “The victim placed the items on the ground and left the scene before contacting dispatch. Warrants were obtained for the suspect. The investigation is ongoing.”
The second incident happened Thursday around dinner time, in much the same manner. From ACPD:
ROBBERY, 2021-12300151, 5800 block of Washington Boulevard. At approximately 6:40 p.m. on December 30, police were dispatched to the report of an armed robbery. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim was delivering food items to the suspect’s residence when the suspect opened the door and allegedly produced a box cutter and demanded that the victim leave the items. The victim placed the items down, exited the building and contacted police. Officers obtained warrants for Robbery and Defrauding a Restaurant for [The suspect], 36, of Arlington, VA.
It was not until Sunday, however, that officers went to arrest the man. A barricade situation and attempt to flee from police ensued.
“When officers attempted to serve the warrants at the suspect’s residence on January 2, he barricaded himself inside the apartment before attempting to flee out of a second story window,” said the crime report. “He was taken into custody and transported to an area hospital for treatment of non-life threatening injuries.”
Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn.
Investors in its Series C funding round include actress Issa Rae, “America’s Got Talent” host Terry Crews, NFL player DeAndre Hopkins, NBA player Lonzo Ball and boxer Deontay Wilder. More than a dozen venture backers joined in the round, including Arlington-based Sands Capital Global Venture Fund.
Previous celebrity backers include the investment group of hip hop mogul Jay-Z and singer/songwriter Usher.
With the newly-raised money, co-founder Shy Pahlevani tells ARLnow that HUNGRY can fund its plans to add new locations and services.
“Over the course of the next year, HUNGRY plans to expand its onsite services and hire more aggressively,” co-founder Shy Pahlevani said. “The money from our Series C funding will be used to strengthen our West Coast presence, starting with Southern California and Silicon Valley. In September, we plan to launch onsite services in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area.”
The funding round caps a successful year for the startup, which was in the top 500 of the latest Inc. list of the fastest-growing companies in America.
“Not only is it an incredible honor to receive a spot on the Inc. 5000 list, it’s a true testament to the hustle, grit, and smarts our team has displayed over the last year and half,” he said. “Despite all the challenges we faced during the early stages of the pandemic, we’ve defied the odds — relying on great teamwork and staying true to our core value [of] positivity.”
The co-founder says celebrity support has bolstered HUNGRY’s brand recognition.
“Celebrities are investing their money in startups more and more, and we believe they’re choosing to back HUNGRY because of our mission, values and history of innovation,” he said.
One of HUNGRY’s biggest pandemic-era innovations is still growing: Virtual Xperiences. Groups can purchase experiences such as online cooking classes with name-brand chefs with supplies sent directly to participants’ homes.
Pahlevani said that business is still “booming… [and] we expect it to continue its staggering growth for the foreseeable future.”
The startup continues to roll out cooking, baking and drink-making experiences — as well as ones not related to gastronomy — on a monthly basis. A number of new concepts are launching this fall, Pahlevani said.
Meanwhile, HUNGRY is seeing part of its original business line, office catering, ramp up again.
“Office catering is starting to pick up across the country as more and more Americans get vaccinated,” Pahlevani said. “We continue to support thousands of clients through our Food Solutions onsite offerings across Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, D.C. Atlanta, Dallas and Austin. Veteran clients, such as Wayfair and Appian, are back to providing meals for their teams onsite, providing a delicious incentive for their teams returning to work.”
Another pandemic-era pivot, however, has come to an end — a partnership with Washington Nationals. When baseball resumed, without fans, those watching from home could get stadium food delivered via the startup.
“The continuation of our Washington Nationals partnership will depend on stadium attendance and interest, but we thoroughly enjoyed working with the powerhouse sports team and would be happy to continue those efforts to provide fans with a stadium experience at-home moving forward,” Pahlevani said.
During the pandemic, HUNGRY has also given back, feeding those who are food insecure as well as members of the National Guard who were sent to D.C. for the inauguration of President Joe Biden. And with the holiday season soon approaching, Pahlevani said HUNGRY has some initiatives planned.
“As we get closer to the holidays, we plan to activate a number of donations and events designed to help those who are food insecure in the communities that we serve, which will include the greater Arlington community,” he said.
A kitchen trailer in Clarendon that popped up last summer in a vacant lot has since been joined by two others.
And now they’re producing meals from more than a half-dozen “ghost kitchens” available on food delivery platforms such as DoorDash and Grubhub. Out of these kitchens come fried chicken sandwiches, asada fries and Asian street food, among other dishes.
The three trailers between the Clarendon Whole Foods and the PNC Bank are owned by REEF Technology, a company focused on turning underutilized, urban parking lots into food and logistics hubs. The food service arm of Reef is called NBRHD Kitchens.
In total, according to signage on the property, these three trailers produce meals for seven restaurant concepts. They’ll be bringing activity the vacant lot while Arlington County embarks on a special study to determine if the zoning codes for the property, near the border of the Clarendon and Courthouse neighborhoods, should allow for a new apartment building.
“REEF launched its delivery restaurants in Arlington in June 2020, being the first municipality in which the company establishes its operations,” the company tells ARLnow. “REEF’s delivery restaurants in Arlington are among the highest performing.”
The company also has two kitchen hubs in D.C. — at P Street NW and K Street NE — and each can support between four and six brands. But REEF did hint at possible expansion.
“As Arlington continues to be a great performing location, REEF continues to look at opportunities to grow its footprint in terms of delivery restaurants and other business verticals,” REEF said.
REEF’s growth and expansion mirrors the trends that the food delivery platforms DoorDash and Grubhub tell ARLnow they’re observing. Spokespeople for the companies said delivery-only kitchens have proliferated particularly in the last year in response to pandemic challenges and the rising costs of establishing a physical location.
“Delivery-only virtual (or ghost) kitchens on Grubhub have been a rising trend over the last year, representing a flexible way for restaurant owners to experiment with new menu concepts, brand a subset of existing menu items, or capture unmet customer demand without adding overhead,” a Grubhub spokeswoman said.
DoorDash doesn’t collect data on the breakdown between delivery-only restaurants and those with storefronts, but the pandemic blurred that line anyway, as traditional dining establishments turned to different models to keep operating when dine-in wasn’t an option.
“For many restaurant owners, ghost kitchens provide a more cost-effective way to expand their business — reaching new markets and customers — because they don’t involve the typical overhead costs associated with opening a new restaurant,” said Emily Tung, the director of DoorDash Kitchens. “Many independent businesses have been successful in their ghost kitchen endeavors and our goal is to support our partners across all their locations and help accelerate their online success.”
But the ghost kitchen activity at this location is destined to be temporary, as the company that owns the lot aims to redevelop it.
Dubbed Courthouse West, the lot at 2636 Wilson Blvd is bounded by N. Danville Street, Clarendon Blvd, N. Cleveland Street and Wilson Blvd. The property’s owner, CRC Companies, has asked the county to change the land-use designation — which currently allows for one- to four-story buildings — to one that allows for hotels or taller apartments.
Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1812 N. Moore Street in Rosslyn.
Territory delivers its healthy meals directly to consumers through “a decentralized back-end marketplace” that partners with local chefs in the communities served by the company.
The Rosslyn-based startup caught the interest of investors that have put their money behind companies such GoPro, the online consignment service thredUP, the vegan “meat” alternative Beyond Meat and the fast-casual salad chain Sweetgreen. Two retired sports celebrities, soccer player Abby Wambach and NFL tight end Vernon Davis, also invested.
Territory Foods has enjoyed 250% year-over-year growth and is poised to increase its footprint nationwide, according to Rick Lewis, a general partner of U.S. Venture Partners, the investment group that led the funding round.
“We’re thrilled to partner with Territory Foods, a mission-driven brand who has built an incredibly distinctive business model by tapping local chefs who make healthy-eating attractive, tasty and attainable to consumers around the country,” Lewis said in a statement. “More than ever, we need true innovation in the food space.”
The new round of funding will allow Territory to expand the number of chefs it works with and provide customers more meal options, said CEO Ellis McCue.
“We go to great lengths to create optimized, personalized meals for each consumer and empower our chefs with data about our customer’s taste and nutritional preferences so they can tailor each meal, ultimately providing more variety than other delivery options out there,” McCue said in a statement.
The startup has raised $44 million to date, which Territory Foods said is the most venture funding raised by a female-led company in the ready-to-eat food category.
According to the company, Territory’s meals are made from scratch using responsibly-sourced ingredients.
“Territory’s ever-rotating, regionally curated menus always feature fresh non-inflammatory ingredients that optimize whole-body health, support a wide variety of dietary preferences, and have minimal to zero environmental impact,” the company said.
The startup launched in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria in 2012 but the company now lists its headquarters as being based at the WeWork in Rosslyn (1201 Wilson Blvd). Territory Foods has grown to serve over 20 major U.S. markets from coast to coast.
Partner chefs and restaurants hail from all over the U.S., and D.C.-area customers will recognize one partner restaurant — local restaurant chain Founding Farmers. Of Territory’s partner food-service companies, McCue said that 42% are women-owned and 38% are led by people of color.
Territory Foods also partners with Feeding America, donating proceeds, meals and volunteer hours to fight food waste and hunger in the U.S., according to the website.
Territory announced last winter that it was recognized as a Best Company for Women and McCue a Best CEO in a 2020 awards competition from the startup Comparably. The awards recognize workplaces that are good for women, have a diverse workforce and promote work-life balance, among other categories.
Photos via Territory Foods
Every day, Executive Chef Lindsey Ayala fires up a smoker outside the Crowne Plaza hotel in Crystal City and feeds the fire with hickory wood.
She is smoking meats “low and slow,” slathering them with scratch-made sauces and serving sides such as mac and cheese, collard greens, and cheddar cornbread for a new pop-up restaurant concept within the hotel called Tom Bones BBQ.
The food is available for delivery through on GrubHub and UberEats or can be picked up from Potomac Social Tavern at 1480 Crystal Drive. It is how Potomac Social Tavern, managed by B. F. Saul Company Hospitality Group, is looking to weather the limitations on indoor dining while still cooking food for restaurant patrons and hotel guests.
Ayala, a pastry chef by training who came to barbecue later in her career, said she tries to be faithful to regional barbecue styles from in Memphis to Missouri. Even Baltimore, her hometown, has its own horseradish sauce, although people may not realize it, she said.
“Anywhere you go on the map, I have the sauce for that,” she said.
She delivers region-specific tastes through her sauces, whether it is a South Carolina-style mustard sauce or an eastern North Carolina-style spicy vinegar sauce.
“Southern states are usually where you get serious barbecue, so when people come to Virginia, they think we’re Northerners who don’t know anything,” she said. “Hopefully, it’ll remind you of how they do it at home.”
Ayala dove into barbecuing when she developed recipes to help her father launch a family restaurant in 2014. The two ran the restaurant and sold their food at flea markets, farmers’ markets and church events. Not long after, however, he had to leave to attend to his health.
Now, Ayala is picking up where she and her father left off, smoking brisket for up to 16 hours a day on the pool patio of the Crowne Plaza (the pool is still closed as a COVID-19 precaution).
So far, Ayala said the new concept is going well enough that she needed to hire a second cook. Generally speaking, she said these pickup and delivery-only concepts — sometimes called ghost kitchens — provide restaurant owners with a good safety net, helping to generate extra revenue at a tiny fraction of the cost of launching a new bricks-and-mortar restaurant.
“I think this will stick around,” she said. “If this happens again, we need a safety net to get our food out there without people having to sit down and dine.”
The pop-up concept is a pilot program within the hospitality group, Ayala said. The other restaurant testing out the idea is O’Malley’s Pub inside the Holiday Inn near Dulles airport. There, she said, Chef Stephon Washington is operating a pickup and delivery concept for Caribbean-style food, inspired by his Jamaican roots, called Grandpa Hank’s Jamaican Kitchen.
“It’s an equally great story,” she said.
For Jeff Grass, CEO and Chairman of Ballston-based startup HUNGRY, a food distribution event in Arlington yesterday (Wednesday) had a bittersweet flavor to it.
While the company was able to prepare 6,000 hot meals for people in need at a drive-thru food distribution event at Central United Methodist Church (4201 Fairfax Drive) near its headquarters, it’s also a painful reminder that nearly one year after a global pandemic began, many Americans face a food accessibility crisis.
“On the one hand, it makes you feel good to be able to do something and it was nice to see how appreciative people are,” Grass said, “but seeing so many people coming by and needing a free meal highlights just how big and prevalent the challenge is. We’re Arlington, one of the richest counties in the country, and yet so many people are in need of food assistance.”
The company was able to distribute most of the 6,000 prepared meals in an event that ran from 1:30-3 p.m., and the remaining couple hundred that were left over were given to a local shelter.
Grass said he didn’t have an estimate on how many people attended the food drive, saying “it was car after car,” but that the company mostly limited the meals to ten per vehicle. HUNGRY had no protocols set up to screen for income levels, saying that anyone who showed up the the event was considered in sufficient need of a meal.
The handful of nicer vehicles, Grass said, were also a reminder of how much the pandemic had turned some lives upside down.
“I didn’t feel like it was up to us to challenge people,” Grass said. “Some people did drive up in nice vehicles, but everybody’s got their own challenges and stories, and everybody seemed to really appreciate it.”
The food distribution events had the added benefit of supporting the local chefs using the platform, particularly catering chefs who were some of the earliest victims of local business impacts.
“We’re in late January, past the holidays, it felt like the right time to do it,” Grass said.
It was the second major food donation initiative in January for the company. The first was a food delivery operation last week to National Guard troops posted in D.C. for presidential inauguration security following the riot at the Capitol earlier this month.
(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) A new Arlington-based ghost kitchen from a pair of prominent restaurateur siblings is now smashing and slinging patties.
Serving up smashed burger patties, crispy chicken sandwiches, and fries, ordering is currently available through the usual delivery apps: UberEats (50% off first order), Doordash, Grubhub, and Postmates.
The delivery area includes Arlington and parts of D.C and Fairfax County, Ian Hilton tells ARLnow.
The idea for Gee Burger, Hilton says, came while “stranded” during the pandemic at Cafe Colline with his chef Brendan L’Etoile, who he’s worked with since 2007. They workshopped burgers that would deliver well, and focused on one similar to another they had previously served at the now-shuttered Gaslight Tavern in D.C.
“It is a very quick process of smashing two patties on a flat top grill, giving them a nice crispy edge,” Hilton says, “It’s a nice juicy burger that travels well and can be cooked very quickly so that you can get it to people in short order.”
In fact, he says the burger can be cooked so quickly that it only takes four minutes to fulfill an order, meaning “we can wait till that driver is basically at our doorstep before we even fire up the order.” Plus, with a relatively localized delivery area, burgers are able to arrive at home kitchen tables hot and looking as if they were just served by a waiter inside of the restaurant.
“The idea is… to make it so that once it gets to somebody’s house, we would be proud of of having our name on it,” says Hilton.
In October, Hilton was forced to close a number of his popular District bars and restaurants due to the pandemic. Even while adjusting to take-out, delivery, and ghost kitchens, Hilton makes a point to say that this is not going to change the brothers’ core focus of creating places where people can socialize and be together.
When the pandemic subsides, his hope is that he will be able to move back to providing those experiences.
“I know that people will return to restaurants,” Hilton says.
In the meantime, he understands that people have grown accustomed to getting pretty much any food delivered to their homes and knows that it’s on restaurateurs to adapt to that.
The hope is that Gee Burger outlasts the pandemic since it’s easy to make, portable, and, so far, popular.
As for his favorite order: “It’s definitely the Kickin [Gee burger]. I just love spicy foods,” says Hilton. “Chef Brendan has this house-made kimchi and housemade pickled jalapeños that goes on that burger that I just can’t get enough of.”
Then, he adds, “Unfortunately, I probably shouldn’t eat more than one week.”
Photo courtesy of Gee Burger
Restaurant Delivery Popular in Arlington — “When WTOP asked UberEats what the top neighborhoods for deliveries are around D.C., it ranked the top five, based on number of orders in 2020. They are Northeast D.C. (it did not specify a specific neighborhood), Shaw, Adams Morgan, Arlington County’s Lyon Park (a dense residential neighborhood south of Rosslyn) and Pentagon City.” [WTOP]
County Board to Elect New Chair — “The Arlington County Board will elect its 2021 Chair and Vice-Chair during its Monday, January 4 virtual Organizational Meeting, and Board Members will lay out their priorities for 2021. The new Chair will succeed 2020 Chair Libby Garvey and will serve for one year.” [Arlington County]
Arlington Housing Market Stays Hot — “Arlington County remains the most expensive D.C. suburb, with a median selling price of $660,000 in November, up 20% from last November, according to Long & Foster data. The number of homes that sold in Arlington last month — 221 — was 23% more than a year ago. The good news for potential buyers in Arlington is that the 530 active listings at the end of November was up 122% from November 2019.” [WTOP]
Gelato Comes With ‘Woke’ Facts — “Most ice cream pints display little more than nutritional information and ingredients, but Amore Congelato founder Thereasa Black wasn’t about to waste an opportunity to advance her company’s social justice mission. Each pint contains ‘stay woke’ facts printed on the side that cover pitfalls of the U.S. criminal justice system. Pick one up at her storefront in Arlington or at Glen’s Garden Market.” [Washington City Paper]