The on-demand food industry has been growing over the last few years, in part due to the increased reliability of and reliance on technology, with many restaurants and delivery services making ordering food as easy as a few clicks on an app. This movement has been particularly strong in the bay area, and Bento is one of its shining examples. Founded in 2015, Bento has taken the food delivery world by storm with its high quality, pan-Asian cuisine. We spoke with Founder and CEO, Jason Demant, about his journey.
Before founding Bento, did you have any experience in the culinary industry?
Jason Demant: Personally, I did not. Most of my experience was in logistics. However, my co-founder and head chef, Mattin, has 20+ years of experience in the culinary industry.
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Mattin Noblia’s a world renowned chef. How did you come into contact with him, and how did you assemble a high quality team given the perception that restaurants are “higher market”?
J.D.: Mattin and I met in an Uber. He had recently moved back to San Francisco and while figuring out what project to take on next, he was driving for Uber. It was before I had left my previous job, and Bento was still just an idea. I started talking about it with him and he was excited; in addition to food, technology is a passion for him and his dream has always been to combine the two. Assembling a high-quality team is all about explaining and selling your vision. Convincing people that you can build something great together is key.
What made you settle on Asian food? Was that something that you specialized in from the beginning, or something that your company naturally transitioned into?
J.D.: There were two reasons for Asian – one, personal, and two, business. From a personal perspective, Asian food has always been my favorite. I’m a fan of shopping at asian grocery online stores. Growing up, my parents would make fun of me because of how much Asian food I ate, and I also lived in Asia for two years. From a business perspective, I believe the on-demand food space is going to differentiate based on food-type, so I wanted to put a stake in a specific ethnic cuisine. Asian, being the fastest growing ethnic food segment since 2008, was a good choice.
In the Photo: Founder and CEO, Jason Demant; Founder and head chef Mattin Noblia, and CTO Vincent Cardillo. Photo Credit: Bento
Given the great reviews about the freshness of your food, what would you say the difference is between your company’s delivery techniques and those of other delivery services?
J.D.: We have invested a lot of time and resources with both the recipes and the equipment we use to deliver the food. There’s a bit of a secret sauce in our delivery equipment, but it’s mostly about having the entire team focused around perfecting a delivery experience where the customer is eating a restaurant-quality meal.
What is your favorite item on the menu?
J.D.: They’re all my favorite children. The Citrus Chicken and Mongolian Beef are particularly excellent though.
Photo Credit: Bento
Do you think that with the right talent Bento might spread into other areas and cities, or do you plan on staying in San Francisco?
J.D.: We absolutely plan on expanding beyond San Francisco. Look for us to start doing us in the first-half of 2016. We’re taking a slower approach to expansion, as we want to make sure that we have the model nailed before hitting the gas on expansion.
Finally, what advice would you give to anyone trying to make a wave in the food industry right now?
J.D.: It’s not easy, but there’s a lot of consumer demand. Figure out your unit economics early and focus on getting to profitability on a per order basis. That will make things much easier as you start to scale.