Nearly a decade ago, Foode Cafe & Catering barely bumped through the economic downturn of 2008. Today, the Vancouver cafe and catering company is on the cusp of opening its third location on the ground floor of the Riverview Tower, 900 Washington St., in downtown Vancouver.
The success surprises owners Joseph Nutting and Joél Nehm, who launched the business together when it was known as Cream & Sugar. Then it was sequestered on the ground floor of the Vancouvercenter, subsisting almost entirely on workers from a nearby Columbia River Crossing office. Three-fourths of the business came from those workers. Without them, Nutting guessed they wouldn’t have survived a recession in full-bore.
“If it weren’t for a government-funded office in the building, I don’t think we would have made it,” he said. “They had a constant cycle of people coming through the building. At that point, downtown Vancouver wasn’t quite what it is now.”
What downtown Vancouver is now, he said, is an up-and-coming business core that Foode wants to find. The rank and file employees have limited lunch options in downtown, Nutting said. If the area continues to grow as city officials hope — and office buildings and hotels are hoisted up at the 32-acre waterfront as developers hope — then Nutting and Nehm could get their strongest location yet. Their other three locations skirt downtown.
The three locations are one at the Educational Service District 112 office at 2500 65th Ave.; another on the first floor of the Hudson Building at 500 E. 13th St.; and one at East 15th Street near the FedEx office. The latter of the three will relocate to the new, 1,100-square-foot space at the first floor of the Riverview Tower.
“Fifteenth Street is quite a bit more of a walk if you’re dealing with rain or, even in the summer, if you only have 30 minutes and need something quickly,” Nutting said.
The locations offer the usual cafe assortment of sandwiches, wraps and caffeinated drinks. The company caters, too.
“As our downtown grows, it can handle more options for dining and urban atmosphere,” said Lee Rafferty, executive director of Vancouver’s Downtown Association. “It’s a positive sign of our downtown once again becoming into its own.”
While the new location will help, Nutting said, the company will always be punching up against large cafe companies such as Starbucks and Panera Bread. Foode’s smaller size — it employs a dozen people — will help it be more nimble with new technologies, such as the popular mobile cash registers built by Square. At the new location, the cafe expects to roll out a delivery service from small orders made online.
“If you need just your lunch sent to your office, we’ll take orders for that online and drop off lunches every day,” Nutting said, pointing out mobile-based delivery companies such as UberEats that are taking off in Portland. “We don’t have the capital to put a location on every corner like Starbucks, or have multiple locations like Panera, but if we can reach our customers by coming to them, that opens us up to a huge amount of business that might be missed out on.”
The company was known as Cream & Sugar up until this year, when they decided it put too much emphasis on coffee and beverages. Renaming their company to Foode has reportedly helped grow revenues by 25 percent in fourth quarters in 2015 and 2016, Nutting said.