An engineer solved the most annoying problem with ordering lunch at work

Refinery 29 foundersCourtesy of Refinery29Refinery29 cofounders Justin Stefano and Philippe von Borries.

It’s been a big year for fashion media company Refinery29.

Its workforce has grown by 60% since 2013, swelling to a total of 200 people. The team is continuing to expand its online video content.

But with all of that growth comes a whole new set of challenges.

Lunchtime food deliveries, for example, have become more difficult to manage.

Front-desk employees (or First Impressionists, as they’re known at Refinery29) would become so inundated with takeout orders that they couldn’t send individual emails when lunches arrived.

Refinery29 says there are usually between 50 and 75 lunch deliveries a day. Inevitably the entire company would be flooded with emails with subject lines like “Dig Inn at the front with no name” and “Fry fries…?”

“The problem was that we would get bombarded with emails for lunch orders that did not have any specific person associated with them,” senior platform engineer Travis Kaufman said to Business Insider. “Stopping everything you’re doing to respond to an email notification takes more time and mental energy than most people think, and when the email has nothing to do with you it’s a waste of precious time.”

Kaufman decided to do something to solve the email bloat.

“The solve was not that difficult from a technical perspective, so I just went ahead and built it,” he said.

Kaufman spent a day and a half using a variety of open-source software — NodeJS, ExpressJS, AngularJS, Redis, and Twitter Bootstrap — to create a web app he called R29 Lunch Box. The app allows people who ordered lunch for delivery to subscribe to lunch alerts, leaving everyone else in the company off the email.

It may seem minor, but even the higher-ups at Refinery29 say this lunch hack has helped to streamline lunchtime.

“Overall, it’s a way for us to maintain productivity and help our employees work efficiently,” Philippe von Borries, co-founder and CEO of Refinery29, said to Business Insider. “My inbox is grateful!”

And Kaufman has plans to make it even better.

“I have a lot of ideas for how to improve it going forward, such as real-time updates to the lunch feed, better UX, and auto-unsubscribes once a lunch is claimed,” Kaufman said. “As an engineer at a hyper-growth media company, it’s important that I stay focused on building solutions to the myriad of interesting challenges a company like Refinery29 faces.”

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