Interviews with Lunchbox founder and CEO Nabeel Alamgir always stand out from the herd. Previous FOD coverage has included words like “outspoken,” “intense enthusiasm” and “blizzard of intensity”—but the high-profile restaurant tech exec is debuting a more muted, measured tone as his company rolls out a succession of upgrades and notable advisors. 

Amid a wave of catering-focused announcements from the New York-based restaurant tech provider, the company announced a new food tech council of 15 restaurant experts to help build what it calls best-in-class technology that’s specifically aimed at large-scale, enterprise operators. 

Characterizing this moment in time after such a challenging year for tech startups, Alamgir said this environment “crushed most of us” with uncharacteristic seriousness, adding that he’s grateful to now be on the other side of that mountain. 

“It made it clear who are the real ones and who are not,” he said about his company and its competitors. “If I had an hour to describe how hard the last 18 months have been on startups and on us, I would go on for another four hours. It’s nice to be on the other side, it’s nice to have incredible momentum, and it’s also nice to be a better company because of it.” 

Boring is the new black

Since its founding in 2019, Lunchbox has been loud in every possible way. From its black and yellow branding, to brash marketing campaigns, a tattoo booth at industry conferences and Alamgir himself going after competitors and the third-party delivery providers—times have clearly changed on the other side of a difficult period. 

“Running a company is really hard,” Alamgir said about this now-recent past. “You have investors, you have different members of the executive team, you have external competitors, you have the market shifting, you have interest rates…so many different things happening so it’s always tough.” 

He’s still willing to throw a javelin or two, noting what he called “artificial capital” that’s been recently injected into the industry, creating what he called “artificial competition.”

Now that industry decision-makers have seen which companies survived the trials of 2022-2023, Alamgir suggested that part of his new job is making sure they know which tech brands are built to last and which are worth betting on. 

“Tough times are good,” he added. “The obstacle is the way that’s what makes a company great and better. It was tiring, but we leaned in…and we’ll lean in forever.” 

Adding that “the sexiest thing in the [startup] world is to be boring,” Alamgir said his overarching theme is being completely operator-driven, which is why he and his stakeholders have assembled a crew of 15 exceptionally well known industry execs. 

The company’s new Food Tech Council is led by Amy Hom, and also includes Anand Gala, Atul Sood, Carin Stutz, David Ciancio, Fred LeFranc, Geoff Alexander, Gregg Majewski, Jimmy Frischling, Michael Schatzberg, Mo Asgari, Phil Crawford, Robin Robison, Sherif Mityas and Wade Allen—a notable cast on the off-premises side of the industry. 

“Lunchbox’s success is going to be [determined by] how well we listen to operators,” Alamgir said, adding that they could assist with issues like what pricing works best for restaurants. “We’re trying to build this together with operators for operators.” 

Calling in the A-Team

Lunchbox co-founder and CEO Nabeel Alamgir

Many restaurant tech startups have aired complaints and criticisms at third-party delivery providers over the years, but none have thrown more bombs than Lunchbox and Alamgir during interviews and in-person events. 

Asked how his stance on delivery providers has shifted, he turned over a new leaf that mirrors the evolution seen from many of the largest restaurant brands, as well. 

“Our focus here at Lunchbox is to just let them be a big marketing channel for restaurants, while we become a place that can move some of them in a healthy way” into becoming the “super users” that every brand targets with loyalty efforts. 

“That’s all I’ll say about third-party [delivery providers right now,” he added. “I’ve said most of it in the past and this year I’m trying to tame it a little bit.” 

Cynics might note that Lunchbox’s more delivery friendly tone roughly coincided with the company raising $50 million through a Series B in early 2022 from a group of big-name investors that included executives from DoorDash. 

That fundraising round, announced several months before Silicon Valley Bank failed and tech investors clammed up in unison, was a major olive branch before founders discovered their previously limitless runways had dramatically shortened. 

Its timing also lined up with Lunchbox focusing its efforts on the enterprise category, which involves much longer sales cycles than smaller restaurant groups. Alamgir said that entails more time spent to meet each side of the equation, as well as time spent under the hood in labs and with existing technology used by some of the largest restaurant brands. 

“They’re not looking for a vendor, they’re looking for consultants or a partner,” the founder said. “And we want to be partners—we hate it when our customers call us vendors. We don’t like that word.” 

Even with a larger corporate team and an A-list squad of advisors, Alamgir remains a highly visible point of view in an industry that tends to be guarded when the recorders are running. 

No matter who is asking the questions, one can tell Alamgir’s wilder side is still ready to rock at a moment’s notice, even though his presentation has softened. 

Having emerged from the pandemic and subsequent funding drought has taken its toll on most corners of the industry, and emerging from tough times with a new perspective is what happens when the latest “never trust anyone over 30” crowd crosses that inevitable threshold. 

“I am humbled by how hard it has been, I think I’ve definitely matured a little bit,” he added. “It’s hard being a 27-year-old founder who started this company to now [being] a 32 year old.”