Relish Works, Gordon Food Service, and 1871 Join Forces to Launch ‘The Food Foundry’ Accelerator Program for Startups


Relish Works and Gordon Food Service join 1871 today to announce The Food Foundry, a 16-week accelerator program designed to support, connect, and propel innovative startups with solutions across the foodservice value chain (from farm to table). The program will support startups by providing access to key foodservice resources (e.g., supply chain, distribution, stores, etc.), professional expertise and guidance, and connections to an extensive network of restaurant operators and entrepreneurs.

“Supporting and accelerating new solutions to challenges and opportunities across the food industry is at the core of our mission,” said Mack Tilling, President and Chief Innovation Officer at Relish Works, Inc. “As an innovation hub designed to lead change in the food industry, The Food Foundry is a cornerstone program for our organization. It’s been deliberately designed to provide a ton of value for foodservice related startups, and we’re extremely excited to be working with Gordon Food Service and 1871 to deliver these strategic advantages.”

Participating startups will receive mission-essential resources, hands-on mentorship, and technical guidance from all three organizations. Participants will also receive $100,000 of blended investment. Furthermore, each participant will gain access to 1871’s full spectrum of resources including an expanded mentorship network of over 500 mentors, 1,000 annual events, and networking opportunities with 1871’s vast community of startups, innovators, and corporate partners.

“There’s a lot of potential in the food industry for innovation and disruption, and this accelerator program will help startups take advantage of those opportunities,” said 1871 CEO Betsy Ziegler. “By partnering with Relish Works and Gordon Food Service, we’re able to pair our expertise in helping startups scale with their proficiency in the food distribution industry; together, we’ll provide startups with a first class curriculum that will advance their business and ensure that they’re investor ready.”

In addition to 1871’s offerings, participants will gain access to the full resources of Gordon Food Service’s wholesale food distribution and stores business including facilities for testing solutions, customer networks, supplier relationships, and industry experience.

“Launching this program is an exciting moment for our organization,” said Rich Wolowski, North American President and CEO of Gordon Food Service. “We look forward to supporting entrepreneurs and startups who are leading the way in how the food industry will work differently and better in the future. By running the program from Relish Works, and partnering with 1871, startups will have unparalleled access to resources and support.”

Startups interested in participating in the program must meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • The startup must focus on providing a solution that would impact the foodservice value chain
  • The solution must apply to the food industry and would benefit from access to industry expertise from wholesale distributors, supply chain resources, restaurant operators, and food suppliers
  • The startup should be early stage (series A or earlier) but have taken steps to determine product market fit
  • The startup is willing to relocate to Chicago or travel to Chicago for one full week a month during the course of the curriculum.

Applications are open now through October 15. Interested parties can learn more and apply here.

About Relish Works

Relish Works is an innovation hub leading disruption in the food industry. Its purpose is to generate innovative solutions to the most pressing customer problems and unmet needs by creating partnerships, designing new solutions, and making strategic investments. Relish Works has deep professional expertise in entrepreneurship, human centered design, customer experience, strategy, and early stage investing. The office is located in the Merchandise Mart building in downtown Chicago.

About 1871

1871 is the home of over 500 high-growth technology startups and more than 1,500 members supported by an entire ecosystem focused on accelerating their growth and creating jobs in the Chicagoland area. Visit for more information. Located in a 130,000 square-foot space over three floors in The Merchandise Mart, 1871 has more than 600 current mentors available to its members, as well as more than 100 partner corporations, universities, education programs, accelerators, venture funds and other organizations that make its extensive matrix of resources possible. For more on our partners, visit, or become a partner by reaching out to

About Gordon Food Service

Since 1897, we have delivered uncompromising quality and heartfelt service for our customers. We began as a simple butter-and-egg delivery service, and have grown to become the largest family business in the foodservice industry by upholding the same approach for 120 years—remaining passionately committed to the people we serve. Today, we serve foodservice operators in the Midwest, Northeast, Southeast, and Southwest regions of the United States and coast-to-coast in Canada. We also operate more than 170 Gordon Food Service Store locations in the U.S. By partnering with organizations from across industries—healthcare to education, independent and chain restaurants, and event planners—we help our customers create food experiences that people choose, enjoy, and remember.






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