The Food Foundry Accelerator (by Relish Works, Gordon Food Service, and 1871) Announces Five Companies Joining Inaugural Cohort


The Food Foundry announced today the five companies that will make up its inaugural cohort, which will begin on January 22, 2019. The Food Foundry is a Relish Works accelerator program in partnership with Gordon Food Service and 1871. Companies participating in the 16-week accelerator program will receive the resources and education necessary to support, connect, and propel innovative startups in the food industry with solutions across the food value chain. Participants will receive access to professional expertise and guidance, connections to an extensive network of foodservice entrepreneurs and operators, and key supply chain and distribution resources.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with the companies joining our inaugural cohort,” said Mack Tilling, Chief Innovation Officer at Relish Works. “Each company brings a unique and disruptive solution to a problem faced within the food industry, and we are excited for Relish Works and The Food Foundry program to help accelerate their growth.”

As program participants, each company will receive a blended investment of $100,000 in exchange for an equity stake in their business. Additionally, each participant will gain access to resources from Gordon Food Service to include the following: wholesale food distribution and stores business including facilities for testing solutions, customer networks, supplier relationships, and industry experience.

“On behalf of the Gordon Food Service organization, I am thrilled to welcome and support this inaugural cohort,” said Rich Wolowski, North American President and CEO of Gordon Food Service. “We look forward to supporting these founders who are leading the way in how the food industry will work differently and better in the future.”

In addition to Relish Works’ and Gordon Food Service’s offerings, cohort members will have access to 1871’s full suite of resources, including an expanded mentorship network of more than 500 mentors, 1,000 annual events, and networking opportunities with 1871’s vast community of startups, innovators, and corporate partners.

“The food-service industry is ripe for disruption and innovation, and we couldn’t be more excited for the entrepreneurs and startups participating in the inaugural cohort of The Food Foundry,” said 1871 CEO Betsy Ziegler. “By partnering with Relish Works and Gordon Food Service, we’re able to provide this cohort with an extensive range of resources and expertise. These assets help ensure that cohort members have all the support they need to become the next leaders in the food industry.”

Companies participating in The Food Foundry’s first cohort include:

  • 86 Repairs | Daniel Estrada and Joe Gallagher | 86 Repair relieves the pain of restaurant repairs so owners and managers can focus on serving their guests.
  • Big Wheelbarrow | Sam Eder, Christina Wing, and Evan Alter | Big Wheelbarrow is a SaaS solution that helps organizations create and manage localized food supply chains.
  • Local Food Connection | Alice Chalmers and Anna Haas | Local Food Connection creates a replicable business model that brings the local food movement into the mainstream.
  • Pod Foods | Larissa Russell and Fiona Lee | Pod Foods is reimagining distribution with B2B supply chain software.
  • WorkChew | Maisha Burt, Allyson McDougal, and Paul Dahm | WorkChew connects individuals to workspace in restaurants.

Each company was selected through a rigorous two-month recruitment and assessment program. From August 15 to October 15, The Food Foundry hosted calls with numerous applicants from various industries from around the world. After reviewing each application, The Food Foundry decided on 12 finalists, who spent two days in Chicago completing a final review process that included interviews, networking, and a pitch competition. Out of the 12 finalists, 6 companies were chosen to participate in The Food Foundry’s maiden cohort.

To learn more about The Food Foundry Accelerator’s inaugural cohort and its members, follow this link.

About Gordon Food Service

Since 1897, we have delivered uncompromising quality and heartfelt service to 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 175 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.

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 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 a not-for-profit organization that exists to inspire, equip, and support founders to build great businesses. It is the home of ~500 high-growth technology startups and ~1,500 members supported by an entire ecosystem focused on accelerating their growth and creating jobs in the Chicagoland area. Located in a 140,000 square-foot space in The Merchandise Mart, 1871 has 500 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. Visit for more information.

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