Meet Thibault Vanhaelen, COO & Co-Founder of Foodiz, the start-up that's committed to reinventing (corporate) catering with a digital, healthy & sustainable approach to make every office a welcoming space where staff members have quick & easy access to delicious lunches.
The Foodiz website describes Thibault's role as follows: "Thibault's experience and his passion for numbers give us a strategic vision and goals to achieve. A great lover of good food, he wants to make Foodiz accessible to as many people as possible." 👌
With a Master’s Degree in Business Engineering & specialization in Finance & Managing Start-Ups, he has to be the perfect fit for the job. 🤷♂️😎 Since he & Foodiz have been clients of ours from the start, we felt it would be interesting to meet and discuss the ins & outs within Foodiz and the collaboration with Nightborn.
💡 You can find more details about Thibault's qualifications, employment history, education, skills, and experience on his 👉LinkedIn profile👈.
We met on a sunny Thursday morning in the offices of Greenbizz Brussels for a nice chat.
Here's how it went...
Good morning, nice to meet you too!
Well, before Foodiz I worked for Burger Brands Belgium, one of the business units & operating divisions of Kharis Capital. Kharis Capital is a private equity firm whose main focus is on fast-food restaurants. They're the leading European Quick Servic Restaurant Operator who launched their own platform, called QSRP. They have a diversified portfolio of strong brands in the quick-service restaurant industry, including Burger King, Quick, O’Tacos, and NORDSEE.
They also invested in Not So Dark, a "Dark Kitchen" B2C concept.
What was super nice with Kharis Capital is that they were both invested in the food sector & the digital sector. Which was super interesting for me. I worked there for more than 2,5 years until I had a conversation with Quentin.
💡 Quentin is CEO & Co-founder of Foodiz, a real entrepreneur 👉 Quentin's LinkedIn Profile
I wanted to change this mindset & offer more healthy, quality & local products to people. We talked about having a positive impact on food, delivered directly to the office. The idea was to mix the healthy food & digital aspect. Which was the perfect combination for me.
So, that's how it went. After this, we decided to develop this concept together & I joined Quentin in his journey.
He was working for a company, as a consultant. This company also delivered food & also tried to reinvent the corporate canteen. But they didn't want to do this with a digital approach. In their opinion, they had to be physically present.
He obviously didn't agree and decided to go his own way & started Foodiz.
We launched Foodiz in January 2020 with the idea to reinvent "food at work". We wanted to provide quality & sustainable food to companies. From the choice of our ingredients to our delivery system. To prepare our healthy & varied meals, we only use fresh quality products and love to work with local producers as much as possible.
We have completely eliminated single-use packaging, meaning it's recyclable or reusable. In our kitchen, we use solar panels to generate electricity, and to clean the dirty dishes we also reuse the rainwater. 👊
Quentin is mainly focused on the sales & PR aspect of the business while I'm in charge of the IT, financial & operational aspects. Given my experience in the sector... Quentin has a big network & lots of contacts.
For example, we had an interview on RTBF which gave us really amazing visibility. We had so much reaction to it. It was really a big deal for us!
🎥 Check it out (in French) 👉 RTBF Interview
In contrast to some big companies such as Uber Eats or Deliveroo, we wanted to launch a new digital concept & digitize the canteen at work, our "Dark Kitchen" concept. We create our own virtual restaurants instead of working with traditional restaurants. This gives us, as a food-providing company, full control over the quality of the dishes.
Everything we provide is produced with different cooking styles in our own Greenbizz kitchen in Brussels. Meaning we have no seating capacity for in-house diners or walk-ins. We start preparing the food once the orders come in & deliver it at the workplace (or at home).
Since we don't work with traditional restaurants or physical canteens it doesn't matter how many employees from each company order lunch. Due to the number of nearby companies, we can even deliver lunch to a single employee. This enhances our sustainable approach & ecological solution. Unlike the big companies that use hundreds of employees to deliver single dishes from restaurants to customers, we have one driver who delivers all the orders for four or five companies in the same area. 👌
Yes, in terms of strategy, we have a B2B strategy for the moment.
In the long-term, we can maybe add the B2B2C strategy to our approach. Because, the business is our client, but the employee is the one who uses our app & orders the food. So in addition to providing a healthy lunch, employees may also be able to do their grocery shopping or eat take-away meals at home, and so on.
But okay, that's a long-term strategy! First things first, let us start with perfecting the B2B concept first 😉
This probably sounds easier than it actually is 🙈. Because, you have to change the mindset of employees with this digital approach, especially in big companies. Usually, they order the old-school way... Where there's 1 person who writes everything down on a piece of paper & does the phone call.
Yes, exactly. But we try to make it as easy as possible for our customers! Employees can pay with their Bancontact app as well as with their meal vouchers, such as Edenred, Sodexo or Monizze.
And... Thanks to COVID, these habits are changing fast. Everything's going digital.
Honestly, it was a big mess! Our concept is based on delivering food directly to the office, but everyone was working from home 🤷♂️. We had to be very flexible & reinvent ourselves.
This being said, the first step we took was to contact all of our clients and just ask them "What can we do for you? How can we help you?" And we got a response right away! They asked us if we could deliver directly to the home of the employees. We agreed & developed a new offer.
this meant that we had to look for a new logistic partner and started working with KGS Group. They helped us to set a fixed price wherever we wanted to deliver in Belgium. It didn't matter where you ordered, from the Ardennes to Antwerp or Brussels. It was exactly the same price.
This was actually super nice & easy.
Indeed, we called it “Team Food” because we wanted to reconnect the teams & colleagues at home. While employees were having meetings through Google Meet, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams they could reconnect through the food at the same time.
Meanwhile, we kept our high standards. We delivered depending on the number of orders... If less than 50 people ordered before 11 am, we delivered everywhere in Belgium on the same day. Why? Because we always strive to work with high-quality & fresh products. If we received a really big order then we delivered the day after, assuring ourselves of the quality & to be sure that everyone could enjoy their lunchtime together as a team.
This was actually a success! Many companies were super happy because we were reconnecting their teams. Since then more & more clients contacted us through word of mouth.
It was pretty amazing. 😍
Yes. But, we're still reaping the benefits of it. When the corona crisis ended in December or January of this year all these companies stayed with us & asked us to offer "Team Food" at their meetings or events on-site.
So, again we just adapted our "Team Food" services & started the catering service that suits all business moments.
We also kept the "deliver at home" service. Because, since corona, people still work a lot more from home. Some companies even changed their policies to an arrangement that their company closes on certain days, obliging their employees to work from home for 1 or 2 days a week.
That's why we still offer a series of boxes delivered throughout Belgium to employees' homes. We call it "Boxes Delivery", our third service 😇.
This hybrid model where we can switch our services is what separates us from the competition. Physical canteens are closing one by one because they can't manage the low presence on site. While we don't have a kitchen or people in physical canteens to manage everything. Making it super easy for us.
Well, that's where Nightborn came in. Because the development of the web- & mobile app aren't in-house products. We developed it together with them & worked a lot on the MVP.
💡 Why you should consider an MVP and how to create an effective one? 🤔
But, thanks to these hard times (COVID-19) we directly started adapting a lot of things. We had time to work on specific development aspects of the app and make sure that it was exactly what we wanted.
As for the process & method, we worked with sprints. We would do & try certain things for let's say 6 weeks and evaluate. The first scope... Then, after validation, we started another one and do the same.
At this moment, I think we're the market leader in Brussels on the digital cantine, Dark Kitchen & B2B concept.
We're growing the turnover each year. In 2020, during COVID we did around 350k, last year we reached around 650k & this year we will exceed 1 million. Not bad in my opinion!
Yes, we work with Proximus, Deloitte, PwC, AG insurance, Danone, Keyence, Brussels Airlines, etc...
They can come up with some big orders sometimes. One of these clients for example ordered more than 1700 Lunches in 2 days... That was tough, but we managed it 😎🙌.
We have more than 70 digital canteens in total. But, I would say we have between 20 & 25 really active digital canteens, ordering each day around 10, 15 & 20. The goal is to achieve 100 digital canteens by the end of this year.
We have 10 restaurants, but we're developing a lot. All the dishes in each restaurant change according to the seasonal products and so on... We adapt it like a carousel.
Indeed. For the moment, we have 5 full-time employees in the kitchen. 1 account manager & 4 people in UPS (packaging). And Quentin & myself of course 😊. We also work a lot with freelancers & students.
Our main competitor in Brussels was Frichti, but they sold the company to Gorillas a couple of months ago & decided to close the Belgian Market.
💡 Gorillas is a German B2C company that delivers groceries to people's homes. They have a "Dark Store" concept on which users can order items through an app at the same supermarket prices.
By 2023 we want to be the market leader in Belgium. If we manage this, we would like to develop the international aspect. 💪
I think there's room in the international market for our concept. But how we would approach this, we're not yet sure. Through a franchise model or go on the market ourselves, using different branches.
The challenge would be to offer the same quality & ecological values abroad. But I think that our product, our digital app, is the main property & added value we can sell. That's also why we invest so much in Nightborn.
In this case, the franchisee can name his company whatever he wants. He would have to take care of all the logistics, the marketing, the digital restaurants, etc... We just give him/her a playbook to build everything based on what we've launched here. Next, we could give the franchisee the option to sell food through his own dark restaurants & brands or use our brands to sell his food.
Through Startup Factory.. They always help young startups to get in contact with other startups.
In our case, they actually invested money in Foodiz. Meaning they really believe in our concept, the management & they are closely involved. Which is great!
To be honest, they're just amazing. We can define our partnership as "super friendly". We discuss with each other all the time. They challenge us & we challenge them. Always in a good atmosphere!
Nightborn has some really talented people within the team. (👉 The team 😎) and they're always flexible & available. The client is always king!
When they like & accept a project, they'll give everything they can. Personally, I think that's really the best quality of them. So yeah, we're super happy with them. I can say right now that we'll never change & stick with them because they're doing an awesome job.
Just to give you an example: They did all the rebranding of our restaurants, for free! It took more than a month... That's just amazing! So, as compensation, we give them a 50% discount promo code on our food & gave them a new client. So you can say it's a win-win partnership! 😍
Exactly, I'm always in contact with Tahir for example. You can go on Slack or call him at 2 am, he will always respond & start working/developing. It's crazy 🤯. This kind of service is extremely important to us because the digital IT & programming part is the most complicated and by far our main product.
We don"t always understand everything they do because it's so complicated, but they make it look so easy. They will explain very clearly how things work & take the time to develop the scope together.
Sometimes we want to do certain things, but they point out the challenges & difficulties. How much time it will take, how we can improve the UX/UI, how we can optimize the back-office, and so on...
💡 To get into detail about what Nightborn exactly did (and is doing) for Foodiz, check out the 👉 case study 👈
I think that's their main strength. The fact that they can make the design but also the integration. This means you always have a match between the design & the development. They start with the design and idea & integrate the code based on that.
Yes, I just want to say "stay as you are, keep it like this & keep pushing!" Because you'll just keep making amazing stuff.
And of course, I hope Nightborn stays focused on Foodiz because we have plenty of things to do. 😇 We're just at the beginning of the app, our digital approach. I think we can do amazing things together. We're at 10% or 15% of our capability. We still have 85% to go!
I know they grow very fast, but I advise them not to get too big or get too many customers. I'm sure there's still plenty of things to do with their current clients, with us... I will do everything to make sure that there's always a budget for them. 😉
Let's grow together!
Want to learn more about Foodiz? Check out their