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With ex-Googler ties and Michelin clients, these San Diego brothers raise millions for kitchen startup Galley

Galley
Ian Christopher, left, and Benji Koltai founded Galley Solutions, a software tool for restaurants and corporate kitchens.
(K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

With a former Google chef on their advisory board, these two brothers are building tech that can power kitchens

A local startup that’s building software for chefs and commercial kitchens is rapidly expanding its team in San Diego after scoring a few million dollars from Bay Area investors.

The company, called Galley Solutions, just closed a $2.5 million round led by Zetta Venture Partners. With Google’s former executive chef Nate Keller on their advisory board, the San Diego company has set out to streamline both massive and small-scale kitchen operations. Since the startup’s launch in 2017, Galley has now raised roughly $3.8 million.

Founded by brothers-in-law Benji Koltai and Ian Christopher, Galley only employed two engineers when the Union-Tribune profiled them last September. A year later, the company now employs 20 people at its headquarters in UTC’s WeWork.

Although its software is barely out of beta, the company already has 50 paying corporate clients. Among them is San Francisco chef and restaurant owner Dominique Crenn, whose restaurant group just earned three Michelin stars for its French restaurant Atelier Crenn.

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Galley also just inked a collaboration deal with WeWork Food Labs, a competitive accelerator program that debuted earlier this year in New York City. The program invests in (and hopefully grows) food and agriculture startups. As part of the collaboration, Galley’s software will be made available to all WeWork Food Labs companies, providing a potential funnel of new customers for the San Diego startup.

WW_LABS_02_PANTRY_WIDE.jpg
A rendering of WeWork Food Labs, which opened a temporary space in New York City earlier this year while their flagship location is set to open in late 2019.
(Courtesy of WeWork)

Co-founder and CEO Christopher, a 34-year-old whose background lies in sustainable farming and hospitality, said he’s been overwhelmed by the fast growth of Galley’s software.

“It’s unbelievable to see how many food businesses around the world are still running their operations on pen and paper, spreadsheets, or software that doesn’t work for them,” Christopher said. “I’ve visited a few hundred restaurants now, and it’s just incredible the state of affairs. It’s exciting for us, but also somewhat depressing to know these incredible organizations have been operating with one arm tied behind their back.”

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The lack of software tools in small mom and pop kitchens isn’t that surprising. But at Google, chef Keller was dealing with greater scale. He managed the kitchen operations from 2002 until 2008, growing the corporate kitchen from 400 meals per day to 40,000. Even housed at one of the most advanced technology companies in the world, Keller ran Google’s massive kitchen using a simple spreadsheet. Pages upon pages were loaded with menus, ingredients and costs.

Galley’s software helps corporate and commercial kitchens with their inventory, purchasing and recipe management, cutting down on food waste and saving operators some money.

Now the director of corporate dining at Comcast, Keller said kitchen software like Galley’s could be a real boon for a massive kitchen operation like his, which juggles varied menus with complex sets of instructions and ingredients daily.

“The restaurant and food world is a low-margin business,” Keller told the Union-Tribune last year. “If you can add a half point to your margin, it makes a big difference.”

In addition to its latest venture round, Galley also scored $300,000 in grant money last month through the state’s CalRecycle program for preventing food waste.

With the combined new funds, the company plans to keep hiring. They just recruited Matt Ferguson, the former chief technology officer from San Diego-based Internet marketing company Zeeto. Ferguson will take over the role of chief technology officer from co-founder and engineer Koltai, who’s shifting in the executive team to lead product development.

Galley also just hired a head of sales, Jason Lazarski (formerly with RetailOps and MindTouch), and plans to add more positions in engineering and sales.


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