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Having Words with Fred Stow Founder and Chief Executive, Order Corner

Having Words with Fred Stow Founder and Chief Executive, Order Corner

Fred Stow has an eye-opening statistic that is helping to make his third-party meal delivery company very successful, and he hopes it will grab the attention of the entire restaurant industry: Large drug companies each spend $50 million to $75 million a year to have restaurant meals delivered to offices and corporate environments during lunch-time sales pitches. Stow estimates that drug and medical equipment salespeople collectively order $1 billion to $1.5 billion a year from restaurants for lunch while entertaining and pitching potential clients in their offices. Stow, chief executive of the four-year-old Order Corner based in Houston, wants more restaurant companies to join his virtual food court on the Internet—at no cost to them—and share in the bounty of what he calls a virtually untapped market.

How is Order Corner different from Gourmet to Go, Takeout Taxi, Chefs On Wheels and other third-party meal delivery outfits?

We see ourselves as a food management company, first of all. We connect with large pharmaceutical companies to handle all of their sales forces’ food orders. These companies have sales forces that number in the thousands of representatives, and they buy lots and lots of food to serve during their sales presentations in doctors’ offices and elsewhere. One of our clients is, in fact, the fifth- or sixth-largest pharmaceutical company in the world.


TITLE: founder and chief executive, Order CornerAGE: 47PERSONAL: married, four childrenHOMETOWN: HoustonEDUCATION: undergraduate business degree from the University of Texas at Austin; MBA from The Darden Business School at The University of VirginiaEXPERIENCE: ExxonMobil executive; management consultant with Capgemini Ernst & Young; founder of the Graduate Business Foundation, a nonprofit organization intended to foster innovation and leadership in graduate business education

How did you get the idea to launch a business in such a specialized market?

We heard from acquaintances about the large amount of food pharmaceutical salespeople buy in a year for sales calls. We got in touch with some of the bigger companies to see if we could streamline that for them, and it grew.

How do restaurants get involved?

We establish relationships with restaurants all over the nation—national chains, regional brands, independents in all 50 states—and they post their menus on our website after signing up with us. It costs them nothing to sign up, and we maintain their menus and all of that for free. All the restaurant has to do is wait for the fax machine to ring with an order.

How do you make your money?

We take a commission on each sale. It’s like a virtual food court, except the food comes to you. We have a minimum order size, but I’d say the typical check ranges from $200 to $300.

What brands already participate?

Chick-fil-A, Maggiano’s, Quiznos, Panera Bread and a bunch of moms-and-pops.

Suppose a restaurant already has in-house meal delivery. Why would it need Order Corner?

This is sizable, incremental business that they are probably not aware even exists. Why wouldn’t they want a piece of a billion-dollar market? We don’t compete with restaurants that have meal delivery. We bring them additional business.

How does the food get to the site?

We have relationships with delivery companies—not the meal-delivery brands you mentioned earlier—that we contract with. Not everyone has access to the Web throughout the day, so our clients can call in their order or e-mail us.

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