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Tech Companies Relying on Meal-Delivery Services to Feed Employees at Home


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Among the perks offered by tech companies to lure and retain employees, serving workers a free lunch is one of the most ingrained in the industry. But now that the coronavirus pandemic is forcing thousands of people to work from home, will some still get that free lunch?

For two companies in the San Francisco Bay Area, the answer is yes. Starting this week, Nybll, an executive meal delivery program based in Los Angeles and San Francisco, is delivering daily lunch to about 500 employees who work for two different tech companies, including Glu, a mobile game developer whose library includes Kim Kardashian: Hollywood. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Paleta, whose fans have included Jessica Biel, Regina King and Channing Tatum, said that business is up — though she did not provide numbers — and added, “We’ve seen several corporate accounts switch to home deliveries as more people stay home.”

Nybll had previously been doing in-office catering for the two companies that now have employees working from home. The price point for home delivery is “around $15,” says Nybll executive chef Kristen Thibeault, who says the price is in line with what it previously cost the companies to feed employees lunch at the office. “In San Francisco, all of our clients are working from home. They have closed all their offices. We’re positioning it as an adjunct to the service they already provide. We’re partnering with Postmates and a couple of other delivery services. We’re not making any money off of the delivery. What Postmates is charging, the client will take on,” says Thibeault, a former executive chef at the Four Seasons San Francisco. “When you look these days at what it takes to compete with Google and Amazon and Facebook, it becomes a critical benefit in terms of what you offer your employees. Now that there’s this shift to home, they are concerned about them getting clean, safe food.”

Nybll also provides lunch catering to entertainment companies in Los Angeles including Netflix, Hulu and Buzzfeed and is launching its executive meal delivery service in L.A. as well.

Thibeault — who also runs a 100-percent plant-based catering and delivery company called vHive, which counts Moby and Joaquin Phoenix as fans — says her company also has instituted more stringent safety practices: “We’ve incorporated sneeze guards and a level of face masks that was not necessary by food safety standards. In mid-February we started temperature checks for all employees. We keep a log every day for every employee. Everyone answers questions about whether anyone in their family has a fever or a cough. We already had very high safety standards because of what we do.”

Meanwhile, Paleta — whose menu includes keto, paleo and plant-based options and which has a no-contact delivery system — says that it is working to expand its offerings. “We’re in the process of adding new immune-boosting dishes to our menu in the coming weeks, as well as add-ons like bone broth, soup, supplements, pantry staples and more,” says the spokesperson. One Paleta plan, the Mediterranean cuisine-inspired Market Menu, runs $49-$69 a day and includes three meals.

Adds Carl Ferro, owner of another meal-delivery service, Sunfare, “My phone has been ringing off the hook with people who are wanting to get on the program. We’re not buying from grocery stores — our supply chain is not interrupted.” He says that the company — whose fans have included Kim Kardashian West, Eva Longoria, Ashley Greene and Mark Wahlberg — is testing its employees’ temperatures daily and taking extra measures to clean its 11,000-square-foot kitchen in downtown Los Angeles. “We’re cleaning down the facility, the handles, the doors, the vans, the coolers inside and out, the ice packs. Everything we would normally do, but more.” Sunfare offers 20-day and 28-day plans that work out to about $67 per day for three meals plus two snacks. Ferro adds that customers can also do add-ons to menus such as “grill-your-own proteins. If people want to stock their refrigerators, they can do that on our family dinners extras line.”

Chef Paola Petrella of Two Peas meal delivery service — who works exclusively with individual clients and focuses on personalized menus — says that while she saw a temporary slowdown in business recently, interest in her company increased again when people realized that they couldn’t “get anything from the store. I think it’s starting to become more of a need.” Two Peas meal plans that include breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack and dessert run $66 a day (for a weekly cycle) to $68 a day (monthly cycle).

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