Accidental Startup Office Manager: Ordering Food

I’ve been thinking about writing about the “less glorious” parts of operating a startup company in the past.  This is my first post on that theme.   Let me know in the comments if you’d like to see it become a regular series.

Before I was a “growth hacker” or even pa

rt of a successful startup, I was the only non-technical person on a team of geeks determined to revolutionize telecommunications.  Of course the company was Twilio, and one of my early (self-assigned) jobs was to make sure we had enough Diet Coke, Goldfish Crackers, and other stuff to make the office a decent place to work.

Before you go on the typical rant “of course a girl would be put in charge of this” let me tell you – no one put me in charge of it.  In fact, I’d put it on my personal card and expense it because our team was really frugal.  And they worked ridiculously hard, and I could see that they wouldn’t eat or go grab food because it wasn’t convenient.  From what I could see, solving this problem would let them write more code, and writing more code would help us win.  So I did it.

Some of the things to consider as you are shopping:

  • Where are you going to store all this stuff, especially non-perishables?
  • Who is trying to lose weight? (Can you avoid ordering foods that are their weakness?)
  • Who is doing low-carb or other types of diets? (Kosher, diabetic, vegetarian, etc)
  • How healthy do people want to be?
  • Do people need you to supply (or can you afford to offer) full meal replacements or just snacks?
  • How much do you want to spend per day on food?
  • How long do you think this order will last?

In the early days, any food is appreciated – and as time passes people start to have preferences and healthy concerns. I’ve created a Referly collection of products to help with your own startup food shopping list.  In fact, I just made a $900 purchase from for Referly and InternMatch (we share and office) that will hopefully last us 6-8 weeks.

Important Note: We also order in fresh food from restaurants with or Postmates, and pick up fresh fruit and vegetables as needed from the local farmer’s market (for us at Pier 1).  You can also arrange to have farm fresh baskets delivered locally, or from to anywhere in the U.S. (disclosure by lovely brother-in-law is their CFO).

Check it out and let me know if I’ve missed any key items you recommend.

Quick Top 5 Products (for those who don’t have time to click through)

  1. Nature Valley Crunchy Granola Bars – 96 bars for $21 on
  2. Kellogg’s Fruity Snacks – 24 packs for $15 on
  3. Quaker Instant Oatmeal Variety Pack – 52 packets for $19 on
  4. Sugar Free Redbull – Pack of 24 8.4 Ounce cans on
  5. Office Snax Peanut Butter Pretzel Nuggets – 2 44 Ounce tubs for $50 on

Disclosure: If you decide to make a purchase through one of my links I may receive a commission from Amazon.  This does not impact the cost of the product you are buying, and is generally 6 to 8% of the purchase value.  I hope you will consider buying the products I suggest if they are a good fit for you, but if not I completely understand and just wanted to let you know.

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  • Rick Turoczy

    Great post, Danielle! It’s funny how — when we get all heads down — we sometimes forget the little things. 

    At PIE, we’ve made it a point to cater at least three meals every week. It keeps the stress levels down, makes sure that folks are stopping to eat, and helps lower the burn rate across the board. But we could still do better on the snacks, so we’re going to put this to good use 😉

  • Rob Ousbey

    Thanks Danielle. Like others have said, it’s interesting to hear about these ‘less glamorous’ parts of the process, but I had a question for you.

    In my experience (of keeping an office stacked with snacks) it seems like snacks & drinks can become a point of contention. EG: “We have all this Coke and Diet Coke, but I only like Coke Zero. Can we get that too?” or “It’s unfair that we keep the kitchen full of nuts, cheese and candy; I dont’ like cheese and would prefer meat snacks – and we should have Skittles instead of M&Ms.”

    How far do you go to cater to the individual whims of loads of people?

    • Danielle Morrill

      You are absolutely right, it becomes a huge pain in the ass and point of contention. People are upset when there is something, isn’t something, when things aren’t healthy enough or when things are too healthy. What we did at Twilio was have an email address you could send requests to, and we’d batch them all up and try to make it fit in the budget. Once you have a full time office manager, revenue etc. you might as well try to satisfy as many people as you can since these folks are working extremely hard, but it is easy to slip over into taking it for granted too. In the early days cheap, easy food is the way to go and it is pretty much up to whoever orders it. I try to draw the line at full meals, as that seems to set reasonable expectations about the types of stuff. Snacks are just that, snacks to tide you over until the next meal. But it’s still a pain in the ass.

  • Anonymous

    None of that stuff on the list is food. It’s sugar and salt mixed with flour and water and that’s about it. Well, the nuts aren’t bad.

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