Early Dot-Com Startup Celebrates 10 Years in Business

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Vmeals online catering service has weathered the financial storms of the past ten years and thrived by leveraging evolving technologies and trends to emerge a true dot-com success story.

“Now we’re able to scale our business more effectively, thanks to recent sales and marketing technology.”

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News Highlights:

  •     Vmeals web-based service turns 10 in October 2010
  •     Vmeals was ahead of its time in online ordering of food from restaurants and caterers
  •     Advent of social media marketing spurs new growth for veteran web firm

Vmeals (http://www.vmeals.com), a web-based service for ordering delivered meals from restaurants and caterers, is celebrating its 10th year in business this month. The firm was founded in 2000 during the dot-com boom days, and its path to growth and success in the online food ordering business has been a tumultuous one.

A Concept Ahead of Its Time

“Vmeals was at least five years ahead of its time,” says current chief executive W. Carter Hoerr. “There was no established market for ordering food online during those early years, so we were pushing the rock up a really steep hill. Restaurants then didn’t understand the value of being online, and our prospective customers were resistant to ordering online versus picking up the phone and ordering the old way.”

Only in the past five years, according to Hoerr, has the concept of ordering food online from restaurants gained significant traction. “Now there’s an entire industry developing around the concept,” says Hoerr, “with lots of players jumping into the space.”

Hoerr says that the road to success for the innovative business has not always been a smooth one. “We’ve been to the edge and back a couple of times. We’ve been through two economic downturns in these ten years – times when some of our corporate customers cut back on meal spending – but we’ve survived and grown coming out of those down periods. Our customers love our service, because it makes their jobs so much easier; and our restaurant partners value the incremental business we send them, so it’s a win-win proposition on both sides.”

The rise of social media marketing has spurred new opportunities for growth for Vmeals, according to Hoerr. The business is rapidly changing its sales and marketing approaches as a result. “We built the Vmeals business over many years through direct, feet on the street sales,” he says. “Now we’re able to scale our business more effectively, thanks to recent sales and marketing technology. We can reach more prospective customers, and establish new restaurant partnerships, through web-based marketing channels.” He lists search engine optimization, social media marketing, email marketing, online advertising, and web-based referral marketing as effective accelerants for growth.

To highlight the value of online engagement with its customers, Vmeals is celebrating its 10th birthday with a month-long series of daily and weekly customer prize drawings. Molly Fulton, sales and marketing manager for the company, describes the effort: “Our 10th birthday is a terrific milestone for Vmeals. It’s an opportunity for us to celebrate with our customers and our restaurant partners, and we do that through an integrated communications approach,” Fulton says. “We promote our customer prize drawings through our website, our Facebook page, Twitter posts, Linkedin posts, and regular emails. Then our sales reps and our customer service folks reinforce the effort during each customer and partner communication. The result is a viral expansion of our message through our entire network; something that just wasn’t possible even just a couple of years ago.”

In the ten years since Vmeals was founded, many new competitors have entered the space, according to Hoerr. “Vmeals and a handful of other early companies forged the path towards online ordering of food,” he says. “Now there are a lot more players in our space. That’s a good thing, because that increased competition is helping increase awareness about our value to both users and suppliers. Customers finally understand that they don’t need the telephone to order food anymore, and in fact that it’s easier and more convenient to order online. But that behavior change has taken a long time to develop, and it still has a long way to go.”

“The next ten years should be really exciting.”

About Vmeals:

Vmeals (http://www.vmeals.com) is an online service for businesses that order group meals for meetings and events. The Vmeals website features menus and delivered meals from more than 1,400 local restaurants and caterers in more than 30 metropolitan East Coast and Midwest markets. Vmeals customers include Fortune 1000 offices, professional services firms (investment banking, law, accounting, technology, consulting, and training), pharmaceutical sales reps, colleges, medical centers and non-profits.

The web-based Vmeals system handles all aspects of the delivered meal transaction – marketing, customer acquisition, menu presentation, pricing, order processing, payment, and customer service – except the actual preparation and presentation of the food.

Vmeals is privately held by individual investors.

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Molly Fulton
Vmeals
434-817-5755 ext. 160
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