From Google and McKinsey to City Pantry

Kate Miller has been with City Pantry for ten months, having joined as Chief Commercial Officer. Her background includes Google and McKinsey, so moving to a start-up is a new challenge. EP spoke to Kate about this transition and why she believes they are challenging the catering market for a better future.

As the industry goes through change, Kate believes the City Pantry approach can make a real difference.

“I’m all about getting my hands dirty and making good things happen quickly.”

What is the state of food in the workplace? Many workers will be familiar with a prevailing opinion: start the week healthy and end up with a binge or a blowout come Friday. This is hardly a recipe for a happy, productive office; such a closed model becomes boring; it takes the joy and excitement out of food that can be felt on London’s booming restaurant scene. So: who, in London, is changing office catering for the better? 

For Kate, it is City Pantry. She explains: “City Pantry’s mission to make people’s working lives better is inspiring to me and something I can really get behind. We spend so much of our time at work — why shouldn’t it be a wonderful place?” City Pantry was founded by Stuart Sunderland, and puts food at the front and centre of office life, delivering from London’s restaurants using a dedicated platform in the cloud.

“In large organisations like Google this pace is no longer an option. In consultancy, it simply isn’t your job to be a doer. You’re a thought partner for someone else’s ideas, someone else’s work.”

It may seem peculiar that Kate, would join City Pantry, coming from such a corporate background. No such problem: “It’s all about the way I work.” Kate explains, “I have a very strong bias to action and like to get things done — cross them off a list; implement; build; iterate. It’s all about getting my hands dirty and making good things happen quickly. In large organisations like Google this pace is no longer an option. In consultancy, it simply isn’t your job to be a doer. You’re a thought partner for someone else’s ideas, someone else’s work.” It’s an open and honest answer from someone who has taken the time to reflect on how they work.

Kate also knows exactly what she enjoys working on too. “I have become increasingly passionate about the food and wellness space throughout my career, and I wanted to work at a start-up making a real difference in this area. My time at HelloFresh was a brilliant grounding in the F&B arena, but I felt I could make more of a difference if I applied some of my passion to companies as opposed to individuals. Having been really inspired by Google’s mission to “make the world’s information accessible to everyone”, I wanted to really help deliver on an inspiring, tangible mission.”

With a background of travelling and living in foreign countries, Kate has always been able to see the importance that food plays in human relationships. “I might not speak Chinese when travelling through China, but I can still eat a meal in Sichuan province with a local family and share in that experience and understand a bit more about their culture through the food they eat, the way it is eaten, where it comes from. The food industry and the food we eat is a bellwether for so many global trends that I think it’s hard not to be passionate about it.”

London — with its rich history of immigration and vibrant food landscape — is perhaps the most important food city in the world right now, but traditional office caterers lack the agility to provide an offering to reflect that. City Pantry’s model has no such limitations, constantly onboarding new restaurants, street food vendors and trucks to keep up with the pace of the city it was born in.

Kate also strongly believes that the way we eat has changed: how we interact with food is also  changing. “There is so much more information available now about what we are eating, where it comes from, how it was handled. All this information is changing the way we eat and the way we cook: conscious consumerism is only possible with increased knowledge sharing and producers and supermarkets and restaurants are under increasing pressure to share that information, to prove their credibility. I hope that technology can serve as a force for good in making the food industry sustainable and equitable in the face of global challenges, focusing on companies that can make a meaningful, scalable impact.”

“We eat together, have a weekly wellness Wednesday and focus on enabling people to be frank and open with each other to do their best work.”

It is this understanding and passion that is evident in the culture of City Pantry. Their team has the strongest of cultures because they follow the advice that they so strongly promote: they get around the table and share lunch together at least three times a week.. Some businesses talk the talk but don’t walk the walk,so it’s refreshing to see this in action. It seems so simple but in reality, it takes a good food offer and a positive attitude to get there. Kate sums up, “We eat together, have a weekly wellness Wednesday and focus on enabling people to be frank and open with each other to do their best work. We believe this is making both our and our clients’ collective working lives better at the same time.”