Great business ideas often start with the desire to solve people’s problems.
For Stefania Mallet, it was to provide busy doctors with additional and better food choices than hospitals’ local cafeterias.
To bring this idea to life, Stefania launched an online marketplace where caterers and restaurants could create an account and add their catering menu. This way, busy doctors had different food choices.
And that was the birth of ezCater.
Fourteen years later, the Boston-based company has grown leaps & bounds to become the biggest online catering marketplace in the US. And as more restaurants and catering businesses adopt online ordering, it’s only normal to consider using ezCater. After all, it has a low entry barrier.
But if you’re reading this article, chances are, you seek an ezCater alternative. Perhaps an online marketplace that has more features, charges less commissions or has better customer service.
If my guess is correct, then you are in the right place.
You’ll find alternatives to ezCater, their features, pricing, pros, and cons in this article. Or you can skip the long gist and go for a commission-free alternative.
For instance, HoneyCart makes it super easy to automate your catering operations, gives you control over your online menu, and helps you generate more revenue.
Then let’s start with…
- Why Caterers Choose ezCater
- Why Caterers Search for ezCater Alternatives
- Top 5 ezCater Alternatives
- 1. Fooda
- 2. CaterCow
- 3. EAT Club
- 4. ZeroCater
- 5. Caviar/Doordash
- Conclusion: Automate Your Drop-Off Catering Business Without Sacrificing Commissions to Third-Party Sites
Why Caterers Choose ezCater
It’s no secret that ezCater is a popular choice among restaurants and caterers in the U.S. The company lists over 80,000 restaurants and caterers, connecting them to hundreds of thousands of customers across various US cities.
The reason for this isn’t far-fetched.
First of all, it will cost you an excess of $5,000 to build a standard catering software. And only a handful of restaurants and caterers can afford this.
But on ezCater, anyone can simply create an account, submit your menu, add delivery fees, and other details. In other words, you don’t have to worry about building or managing a system to get online catering orders.
Secondly, ezCater promises to help its users market their catering business to hungry businesspeople. It sounds like a tempting offer, especially for those who lack marketing experience. They only have to set up their online platform and wait for orders to flood in.
Lastly, you don’t have to worry about delivery. ezCater has a network of drivers that can deliver food to your customers.
Those are some perks attracting caterers to ezCater’s online marketplace.
Now, let’s look at…
Why Caterers Search for ezCater Alternatives
There are several reasons why caterers are looking to jump ship to ezCater alternatives. Let’s explore some of them.
1. Inability to Change Catering Menu
I bet one thing drop-off caterers like you love to have is control over their menu.
Unfortunately, this feature isn’t available on ezCater. Instead, you have to submit a request for a menu update or email the menu team to edit your menu. And it could take up to 10 business days for them to make the changes.
So it’s no surprise to see caterers whose businesses require changing the menu from time to time search for platforms that give them complete control over their menu.
Take Linda Estrada of MyTacoguy, for instance.
One of the reasons she switched to HoneyCart from ezCater was to update her menu without support.
In her words:
“I love how I can make instant changes and updates to my menus without having to email someone to do it and waiting for days. I’m 100% in charge of my menu, my prices, and order volume.”
2. Wasted Marketing Efforts
If you market your catering business on social media, sending customers to third-party sites like ezCater will expose them to other restaurants and caterers.
And if they come across better or cheaper options, they are more likely to pitch their tents with them. As such, you will waste your marketing efforts as they become ezCater’s customers.
Caterers who understand this effect on their business either jump ship entirely or only use ezCater as a secondary source of customers.
3. High Commission Fees on Each Order
The commission caterers have to sacrifice on ezCater is arguably the most significant reason for searching for alternatives.
ezCater charges a whopping 18% to 37% commission on each catering order, plus a 2.75% processing fee for credit card payments.
In an industry where the average profit margin is around 5%, your business will struggle to break even if you keep sacrificing your precious margins. No wonder caterers switch to platforms that charge little or no commissions.
Again, Linda complained:
“On top of feeling overwhelmed from wearing too many hats in the business, it killed me knowing we had to share our profits with ezCater even though it was OUR FOOD customers loved, and all they did was process the order.”
After switching to HoneyCart, a catering automation software that charges Zero Percent on commissions, here’s what she said:
“HoneyCart really is the best investment you can make. The cost can be made back in as little as one order. So no more needing to give up any commission to third parties for EACH order.
Top 5 ezCater Alternatives
If you do a quick Google search for ezCater alternatives, you’ll see that there are lots of online platforms to choose from. As such, it can be tough to know which one to use.
Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.
Here are the top five ezCater alternatives, including their features, pricing, pros, and cons.
Fooda is an online platform that partners with restaurants to provide food to people while at work. It was founded in 2011 with its headquarters in Chicago.
How Fooda Works
Fooda brings in rotating restaurants to a specified location like the office, lobby, or meeting room in office buildings. They call this called Popups. This way, employees don’t have to leave the office before getting food.
Companies get only one restaurant per day and each restaurant only once every few weeks. As such, employees have different food choices each day. Also, they can view the restaurant’s menu on Fooda’s website or mobile app.
To become one of their restaurant partners, you have to register on their website, and someone from their team will reach out to you.
- Available on Android/iOS app stores
- Referral program for customers
Fooda charges its partners a flat rate between $100 – $300 per lunch service, depending on the size of the participating company.
- Unique popup offering
- Marketing exposure
- More traffic to your physical location
- Physical presence may require additional staff and equipment
- Pricey signup fee
CaterCow is an online marketplace that connects catering partners like well-known restaurants, chefs, and boutique caterers, to customers. Their service is explicitly focused on group ordering.
It was founded in 2012. In 2019, CaterCow had counted 2,500+ businesses in 8 cities as active clients.
How CaterCow Works
CaterCow works with catering partners to create pre-fixed menus known as packages. These packages are priced per person and are curated for big groups.
To join, simply sign up on their website, submit your information, catering menu, and other details for their team to review.
But unlike ezCater, where any restaurant can sign up, CaterCow takes applicants through a rigorous vetting process to ensure punctuality, service, and food quality.
Also, to be a CaterCow partner, you have to arrange your own delivery.
Once they accept you into their platform, they will add your catering store to their marketplace where customers can find it.
- Minimum & Maximum order
- Required lead time
- Set delivery areas & delivery fees
- Cancellation policy
It’s free to create an account on CaterCow. However, they deduct between 11 – 16% percent from each order payout, covering commission, customer service, referral, marketing, invoicing, and credit card processing fees.
- Takes quality seriously
- Marketing exposure
- Control over delivery areas, delivery fees, required lead time, cancellation policy, minimum and maximum order sizes.
- Rigorous vetting process
- Best for restaurants/caterers that cater to large groups
- It takes up to 1 – 3 business days to get paid. And up to 4 weeks for larger corporate clients
- Pricey commissions
- Competitive marketplace. It can take a while to get orders.
3. EAT Club
EAT Club is a virtual cafeteria that specializes in delivering personalized, delicious meals to offices that don’t have a dedicated dining option in their building.
It was founded in 2010, by Compass Group, a global leader in food service, recently acquired it.
How EAT Club Works
EAT Club is quite similar to Fooda listed above. But the difference is EAT club delivers the food to employees rather than bringing restaurants to offices.
Instead, they combine food from their kitchen and other restaurants at a central distribution warehouse and re-sort it before delivering it to various offices.
Employees get to choose their favorite lunch from a curated menu of delicious options every day.
To become an EAT Club partner, you have to contact them by filling a Google Form. Then someone on their team will contact you.
- iOS/Android app
- Push notifications
- Personalized dashboard
- Marketing exposure
- Mass-produced food being collected at a warehouse before being redistributed to offices may lead to lower quality.
- You have to fill a form before being accepted. It could take days or weeks
- Only available in San Francisco Bay area/Los Angeles
ZeroCater is a food service company that partners with restaurants, food trucks, and private chefs to deliver personalized local corporate catering and snacks services for any office size. It was founded in 2009 with its headquarters in California.
How ZeroCater Works
ZeroCater pairs companies that sign up with them to a dedicated account manager who learns their team’s tastes, preferences, and dietary restrictions.
This dedicated account manager stores this information in their custom profile to help refine future orders.
To become a ZeroCater partner, you have to apply for a catering or snacks partnership on the website.
Also, you can provide meals either as a recurring catering service or as a one-time company event.
- Order and delivery forms
- Clearly stated menu
- Real-time tech-powered dashboard
- Set delivery time
ZeroCater charges restaurants 20% – 30% commission.
- Dedicated food concierge team
- Delivery partners
- Exposure to catering clients
- No online catering marketplace. Customers have to go through a dedicated account manager.
- It’s best suited for large companies and enterprises with a predictable menu.
- Rigorous selection process as ZeroCater only works with top-quality restaurants, caterers, and food trucks.
Caviar is an online catering marketplace that connects people to restaurants and restaurants to couriers who pick up and deliver to designated locations. Founded in 2012, it was acquired by Doordash in 2020.
How Caviar Works
Caviar works with restaurants, caterers to prepare the food. They also work with couriers (called dashers) to deliver the food to customers. But customers have the option to pick up their orders. And they can order via the app or website.
So you can sign up either as a restaurant.
To sign up as a restaurant partner, you have to fill out a form on the website, and someone from their sales team will contact you. Then anytime you get an order, you prepare the food for dashers to deliver or customers to pick up.
- ASAP/Scheduled orders
- iOS/Android App
- Add special instructions
- Change pickup time
- Extend preparation time
- Marketing exposure
Caviar charges up to 30% on each order, including delivery and taxes. However, if a customer chooses to pick up the order, then it reduces to 12%.
- Handles delivery
- Marketing exposure
- 30-day free trial available
- You can’t make changes to menu yourself
- High commission charges
- Selective about its partners. It may be difficult to get approval.
Conclusion: Automate Your Drop-Off Catering Business Without Sacrificing Commissions to Third-Party Sites
There you have it!
The top five ezCater alternatives. While each platform has its pros and cons, there’s something they all have in common.
What’s that, you ask?
They own, manage and control their online marketplace. You’re just a tenant on it. As such, it’s not a smart business strategy to rely solely on any of them to get catering sales.
Because if for any reason they suspend your account or, even worse, shut down, then you’ll lose customers and sales. In other words, the success (or failure) of your business lies in their hands.
So, to avoid this unfortunate situation, here’s what you should do.
Take matters into your own hands by using a catering automation software like HoneyCart to manage your drop-off catering orders.
Using HoneyCart to automate your catering business will help save more time, save costs, increase productivity and generate more revenue without sacrificing your precious profits.
Also, you get to retain customers as they are not distracted by other caterers or restaurants.
What’s more, HoneyCart gives you complete control over your catering orders. This way, you can work at your pace because you have the option to review orders before accepting them, unlike restaurant-like systems where there’s always pressure to deliver every order.
A feature that delighted Jim Lenz, Co-owner of Two Unique Catering, when they started using HoneyCart.
In his words:
“The reason HoneyCart made sense for us was the fact that I could pick times that things were available for. Every other system seemed to be very restaurant-driven like, “Hey, I want a burrito, and I need it in 30 minutes,” whereas catering is a very different process, and I needed the option to select days and times and then, even more so, the option to approve an order.”
In addition, you can make changes to your online catering menu as you see fit without submitting any form or emailing any support.
Just as Charlton Becker of Charlton Becker Catering found out after pulling the plug on ezCater.
“I love that HoneyCart gives us a free reign on creating new menu items with a pricing structure that works for us.”
And if you run into any issues that need a quick resolution?
“Their customer support also has good response time when we have a question or submit feedback for improving the system.”
So, are you ready to ditch third-party ordering sites and take control of your catering orders?
Start your 14-day free trial right away. No credit card is required.