The Bangladeshi American is making his way into the restaurant industry in the United States

Despite pandemic challenges, his business saw year-over-year revenue seven times higher in 2020

This is the story of Nabeel Alamgir, a 30-year-old Bangladeshi-American based in New York who believes he has the solution to help restaurants reduce food delivery costs.

In 2019, months before the pandemic, he brainstormed an idea as people increasingly relied on third-party platforms such as Uber Eats and GrubHub, which charge up to 30% commission per delivery, reports. .

Formerly a busboy for the Bareburger restaurant chain, Alamgir has launched its online delivery service “Lunchbox” with the aim of helping restaurants reduce their reliance on third-party marketplaces. Before that, he had tried two other startups.

In addition to website and app design, Lunchbox also handles point-of-sale operations, online ordering, marketing, loyalty programs, and data processing for restaurants.

Starting with a team of 10 in 2019, Lunchbox has grown to a cohort of 160 employees and is looking for more.

Over the next year, Lunchbox wants to expand the virtual storefront to grocers, liquor and retail. The startup also intends to go global next year.

Alternative to chain restaurants and ghost kitchens?

Unlike most marketplaces, which charge customers per order, Lunchbox charges a flat monthly fee per location for restaurant chains. “We help restaurants convert third-party sales, GrubHub sales, into first-party sales,” Nabeel explained.

Lunchbox customers include Bareburger, Clean Juice, Mexicue, Zaro’s Family Bakery and Fuku. The focus is on chains with between 10 and 100 restaurants.

“It’s not just about saving money, it’s also about increasing margins,” he said, adding that restaurants make a profit of about $25 for every $100 a consumer spends on Lunchbox, compared to $5 when sales are through a third party. Platform.

In an effort to reach small businesses, Lunchbox has partnered with the C3 platform and created CitizenGo, an app where people can order directly from ghost kitchens. Nabeel believes he has helped minority leaders expand their following.

The app offers pickup options across C3’s network, which includes approximately 200 communities. Delivery is available to Los Angeles, Northern California, New York and Chicago.

Initial struggles

Nabeel, who was on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, moved to the United States in 2005 at the age of 14. He started working as a busboy at Bareburger to support his family.

He worked his way up the corporate ladder to become Marketing Director of Bareburger. In the process, Nabeel gained direct experience with third-party delivery companies, observing their “predatory” practices and feeling that customers were being taken advantage of.

$20 million in venture capital

In 2019, Lunchbox secured $2 million in seed capital, after being rejected by 72 investors. A year later, it raised $20 million, the food tech industry’s largest Series A in history.

“By the time we moved into Series A, I already had 100 investors that we had built relationships with,” Nabeel said.

The money was collected within a week, he added.

The techpreneur, however, lamented racism in the US venture capital space.

“As a brown person, I’m not even considered a minority in tech,” he said.

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, his business saw year-over-year revenue seven times higher in 2020.

Train budding entrepreneurs

Nabeel supports FirstGeneration, a non-profit organization that aims to create wealth, mobility, networks, and generational capabilities for immigrant and first-generation communities through entrepreneurship.

“If you want to please everyone, then go be a doctor. If you can take comments and have thick skin, then go for it [and be an entrepreneur]. This is what entrepreneurship needs,” Nabeel advised aspiring entrepreneurs.

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Cecil N. Messick