It’s mind-boggling that Silicon Valley’s notorious free lunches haven’t been given more attention on HBO’s “Silicon Valley.”
Everyday in the suburbs south of San Francisco, scores of pizza boxes, burritos, and grilled cheese sandwiches find their way to startups, hacker hostels, and companies like Google and Facebook. The general idea is this: if companies bring lunch to their employees, they can keep them working at their desks even longer.
Free lunch is considered a major perk of working at a startup, but often these meals come from restaurants that are fast, convenient, and not-so-good-for-you.
Farm Hill believes it can do free lunch better. The on-demand food delivery startup based out of Redwood City, California, serves thousands of mostly Paleo meals that contain no added sugar, refined grains, cheese, or processed ingredients daily across the greater Bay Area.
While individuals can order a meal and have it delivered to their office for under $15, most business comes from Silicon Valley’s free lunch programs. In the past, Farm Hill has served Niantic Labs (the company behind Pokémon GO), eBay, Stanford, and Shyp, and others.
In fall 2015, CEO Marc Manara and his cofounder, Mark Wittman, launched Farm Hill’s delivery arm in Silicon Valley. A bulk of startups are located there, and yet, the suburban sprawl offers fewer on-demand food options than San Francisco proper.
“Those offices have a single deli or an In-N-Out Burger nearby. There’s really nothing,” Manara tells Tech Insider.
The company recently expanded its delivery zone to the city and Oakland, and serves “thousands” of meals a day, though Manara would not be more specific. That kind of distribution puts Farm Hill on par with, if not slightly behind, local rivals Sprig and Munchery, which cater more to individuals.
The idea of an on-demand delivery startup that serves healthy foods (for those who can afford it) has come under more scrutiny from venture capitalists, as funding dried up in Silicon Valley. Farm Hill hopes it can keep afloat by making it easy for a startup to order lunch for its whole crew.
The company’s website has a Group Order function that lets companies set up a corporate account and manage individual orders from one centralised screen. Employees can log in, view the menu, add an item to the cart, and receive their meal at the same time as everyone else.
There’s a small catch. Farm Hill customers must place their order before 10 a.m. to receive it that day.
A typical Farm Hill meal includes a lean meat, a grain, and a vegetable medley. On Monday’s menu, customers could choose from a menu that included lemon-herb crusted chicken served on a bed of raw kale salad, steamed kabocha squash, and sesame-seasoned organic brown rice.
A former chef at Facebook, Thea Vengrin, helms the culinary team that dreams up and prepares dishes daily in Farm Hill’s Redwood City kitchen. As part of the company’s “eat the rainbow” philosophy, each dish must contain three different colours.
Customers who crave variety may be better off ordering elsewhere. When I checked the Farm Hill menu every few days over the last two weeks, the menu stayed the same.
But if you’re less picky — and especially if your startup is picking up the bill — a lunch from Farm Hill sounds like a wholesome meal you won’t regret an hour later.
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