Penn Foodie Startup NomGoGo Reaches 300 Customers

After reaching 300 customers in under 2 months, Penn-founded foodie startup NomGoGo plans to continue to expand as it provides high quality, convenient meals for group eating experiences.

Given this milestone, I sat down with Chen Feng, CEO and founder of NomGoGo, to discuss the company journey and her vision for sustained growth.

Chen Feng is a self-described foodie. She lives, dreams, and (very literally) eats high quality food.

Despite being born in Beijing, Chen has spent most of her life in France and Switzerland. In Europe, as Chen describes it, high quality food is a central component of life.

Every day, Chen — like most Europeans — spent hours sitting down, relaxing, and enjoying her meals with her friends, family, or colleagues. She relished this time as an opportunity not only to savor high quality food but also to build meaningful connections with the people around her.

When she arrived in Philadelphia to start her MBA at Wharton in August 2016, she was shocked to find that her classmates were rushing around to grab a quick bite between classes. They didn’t seem to have time to sit down with classmates and enjoy a high quality meal.

And the options were neither convenient nor varied. Chipotle burrito bowls, Sweetgreen salads, and Wawa sandwiches were her classmates’ staples — and these options required 20 minutes or more between walking to the restaurant, waiting in line, and then finally walking back to campus with the food.

But she couldn’t blame her classmates. Given her hectic schedule and the limited options on and around campus, even Chen — despite her passion for food — found herself eating energy bars and mediocre sandwiches.

“I knew there had to be a better solution: a way to fuse the American focus on efficiency with the European emphasis on enjoying your meals and connecting with friends or colleagues,” Chen noted.

The Beginning

Chen Feng enrolled in Laura Huang’s Entrepreneurship course at Wharton with a clear problem to tackle: bringing busy people together with nutritious, high quality meals.

She and her team began with a simple solution. After hand-picking some of Philadelphia’s best dishes among restaurants across the city, NomGoGo began using a Google Spreadsheet to provide 2–3 dish options each day, collect orders from classmates, and deliver these orders to beta customers at Wharton’s Huntsman Hall.

Within just 3 days, Chen’s group order had grown to 60 of her classmates. That’s when Chen and the NomGoGo team began iterating on customer feedback, building its website, and ultimately launching a mobile app in iOS and Android.

Images from NomGoGo’s iOS application

Not Another Food Delivery Company

NomGoGo attributes its fast growth to its customer value proposition.

For customers, Thai grilled chicken, Chinese dim sum, and Korean national favorite Bibimbap delivered to school has been a clear upgrade from the daily trek to Wawa for a sandwich.

What’s more? By providing customers with only 2–3 options each day and taking care of all other aspects of their dining experience, NomGoGo saves time for its customers. The 20 minutes or more that students had spent contemplating what to eat that day and then waiting in line at Chipotle is now being spent sitting down with and building meaningful connections with classmates — all over a delicious, nutritious meal.

Students gathering to collect their Nomboxes for lunch in Wharton’s Huntsman Hall

“When I see my classmates sitting down every day at noon and bonding over high quality meals, I experience a feeling of deep satisfaction,” Chen expressed.

Kitchens: A Two-Sided Value Proposition

While NomGoGo has collected feedback from its customers, how have restaurants responded?

As Chen highlights, “Restaurants have perhaps been even more excited than customers. That’s because NomGoGo addresses several key issues that restaurants face.”

For starters, restaurants face peak demand around meal times. Kitchen staff is often underutilized from 9–11 AM and then — suddenly — experiences a rush of orders around lunch time and is sometimes unable to meet demand.

Since NomGoGo orders are submitted to the restaurant in advance, they help kitchens project demand and smooth utilization of staff across the entire day.

The NomGoGo value proposition is particularly strong for restaurants that serve high quality food but are in areas with less foot traffic. When Chen Feng discovered Taqueria La Veracruzana in South Philly, she absolutely loved it.

NomGoGo began delivering their tacos to campus — and Chen was unsurprised when her classmates loved these tacos too. Because the taqueria is in South Philly, Penn students would have had no way of accessing what many students now describe as the best tacos in Philadelphia without NomGoGo.

Expand, Expand, Expand

What’s next for NomGoGo?

Developing more ‘Nomspots,’ locations where customers collect and eat their food, across the entire University of Pennsylvania campus.

Eventually, NomGoGo hopes to expand to other campuses as well so that students outside of Penn can enjoy high quality, nutritious food and make meaningful connections in the process.

Check out and order from NomGoGo here.


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