From Seamless, an easier way to manage corporate spending on food

November 18, 2012

For employees at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, keeping track of lunch and dinner tabs used to be a complicated process.

The law and lobby firm’s Washington office typically holds 30 to 50 meetings a day in which they feed about 400 people. Some of those meals are billable to clients, while others are paid for by the company.

With scores of invoices to process from a host of caterers and restaurants, “It was pretty heavy lifting,” said Shannon Alford, the company’s conference center manager.

But in recent years, Akin Gump has transitioned to a food-ordering and management system called Seamless to ease the burden.

Seamless is a system that allows a company to place, track and pay for all of its food delivery orders in one place. The company receives just one bill, which simplifies processing for administrators and saves them time.

“It’s very powerful, actually. And it’s quite streamlined,” Alford said.

Though corporate accounts were Seamless’s first line of business, many consumers are familiar with the company through its personal accounts, which provide similar food-delivery conveniences for individual consumers.

“Seamless has corporate users who hopefully go home and become consumer users, and vice versa,” said MaryBeth Sheppard, senior manager in Seamless’s corporate division.

For corporate clients, Seamless not only creates a central hub for an organization to track its spending on meals at meetings and events, it allows individual employees to place single orders for delivery. For those workers, it eliminates the need to fill out an expense report and wait for reimbursement.

The system can help companies enforce their rules about expensing food purchases. For example, if a firm considers a dinner reimbursable only if the worker is at the office later than 7:00pm, Seamless can track what time the order was placed and make sure the purchase was in line with company policy. It can also be customized to reflect other rules: Different spending limits can be set for breakfast, lunch and dinner or for weekday versus weekend purchases.

A growth opportunity

Seamless serves nearly 4,000 companies and organizations across the country, and the company says it is looking to grow in the Washington area.

In this region, the average cost per meal for their corporate customers is $32.55, which is higher than in any other city. The company says that professional services firms are good targets for the service it offers, and that sector is the backbone of the local economy.

Seamless is also encouraged by the fact that its Washington area customers in the technology industry doubled their spending on food this year.

“Food as a perk, even among companies who don’t bill out, is skyrocketing,” Sheppard said. “Facebook, Google have raised the bar in terms of what people expect.”

Sheppard also said that Seamless sees opportunity in the Washington area’s strong base of nonprofit organizations. Many of these groups are tax exempt and thus shouldn’t have to pay sales tax on food purchases. If those groups sign on with Seamless, the food-delivery system can help them save money by customizing their accounts to make sure they never mistakenly pay tax on such orders.

“For tax-exempt companies and clients, there’s a hard and fast dollar amount that they’re likely saving,” Sheppard said.

While other companies such as GrubHub offer streamlined food-delivery options, that service currently does not offer corporate accounts. Seamless says its biggest challenge is not from a direct rival, but rather is making potential customers aware that their service exists.

“Our biggest competitor is the status quo,” Sheppard said.

Sarah Halzack is The Washington Post's national retail reporter. She has previously covered the local job market and the business of talent and hiring. She has also served as a Web producer for business and economics news.
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November 18, 2012

For employees at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, keeping track of lunch and dinner tabs used to be a complicated process.

The law and lobby firm’s Washington office typically holds 30 to 50 meetings a day in which they feed about 400 people. Some of those meals are billable to clients, while others are paid for by the company.

With scores of invoices to process from a host of caterers and restaurants, “It was pretty heavy lifting,” said Shannon Alford, the company’s conference center manager.

But in recent years, Akin Gump has transitioned to a food-ordering and management system called Seamless to ease the burden.

Seamless is a system that allows a company to place, track and pay for all of its food delivery orders in one place. The company receives just one bill, which simplifies processing for administrators and saves them time.

“It’s very powerful, actually. And it’s quite streamlined,” Alford said.

Though corporate accounts were Seamless’s first line of business, many consumers are familiar with the company through its personal accounts, which provide similar food-delivery conveniences for individual consumers.

“Seamless has corporate users who hopefully go home and become consumer users, and vice versa,” said MaryBeth Sheppard, senior manager in Seamless’s corporate division.

For corporate clients, Seamless not only creates a central hub for an organization to track its spending on meals at meetings and events, it allows individual employees to place single orders for delivery. For those workers, it eliminates the need to fill out an expense report and wait for reimbursement.

The system can help companies enforce their rules about expensing food purchases. For example, if a firm considers a dinner reimbursable only if the worker is at the office later than 7:00pm, Seamless can track what time the order was placed and make sure the purchase was in line with company policy. It can also be customized to reflect other rules: Different spending limits can be set for breakfast, lunch and dinner or for weekday versus weekend purchases.

A growth opportunity

Seamless serves nearly 4,000 companies and organizations across the country, and the company says it is looking to grow in the Washington area.

In this region, the average cost per meal for their corporate customers is $32.55, which is higher than in any other city. The company says that professional services firms are good targets for the service it offers, and that sector is the backbone of the local economy.

Seamless is also encouraged by the fact that its Washington area customers in the technology industry doubled their spending on food this year.

“Food as a perk, even among companies who don’t bill out, is skyrocketing,” Sheppard said. “Facebook, Google have raised the bar in terms of what people expect.”

Sheppard also said that Seamless sees opportunity in the Washington area’s strong base of nonprofit organizations. Many of these groups are tax exempt and thus shouldn’t have to pay sales tax on food purchases. If those groups sign on with Seamless, the food-delivery system can help them save money by customizing their accounts to make sure they never mistakenly pay tax on such orders.

“For tax-exempt companies and clients, there’s a hard and fast dollar amount that they’re likely saving,” Sheppard said.

While other companies such as GrubHub offer streamlined food-delivery options, that service currently does not offer corporate accounts. Seamless says its biggest challenge is not from a direct rival, but rather is making potential customers aware that their service exists.

“Our biggest competitor is the status quo,” Sheppard said.

Sarah Halzack is The Washington Post's national retail reporter. She has previously covered the local job market and the business of talent and hiring. She has also served as a Web producer for business and economics news.
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