Imagine 25 million workers maintaining a hybrid work schedule — working remotely part of the week, going into the office the rest of the week. While it’s not an unfamiliar idea, such a large number is hard to conceptualize: it’s somewhere close to the combined populations of New York City and Miami.
According to Pew Research Center, the trend of fully remote workers has decreased in recent months, after its initial upsurge due to the pandemic. Among workers with jobs that can be done remotely, only 35 percent were remote all the time as of March 2023, down from 43 percent in January 2022.
Hybrid work — a ‘best of both worlds’ environment — will likely be a key part of the future of work, and, for Nate Rosenstock, CEO and co-founder of Crafty, it is one that he has prepared for.
“The future of work is always top of mind for our team,” said Rosenstock. “As the figurative space between the employee and the employer increases, we must build connections — both physical and digital — to foster a sense of community within companies.
“It’s true that breaking bread brings people together, and that’s why our role in this ecosystem is so meaningful,” he added.
“It’s true that breaking bread brings people together, and that’s why our role in this ecosystem is so meaningful.”
Thinking ahead about how the company might grow alongside a changing workplace is something that Crafty put into practice from the beginning.
“Our original idea for Crafty was to be ‘Birchbox for Beer,’” said Rosenstock. “Luckily, we never launched that business: Instead, we went after the B2B market: We first started as an alcohol marketplace for corporate happy hours, then due to our customer demands, we quickly expanded to a full-service snack and beverage service provider.”
Crafty’s path to success started by mapping out what milestones were reachable. The idea was to set goals that were achievable and sustainable.
“We set our first goal, $1 million in sales,” said Rosenstock. “We didn’t timebox it, we just went after it. It took us a year to hit that goal.”
After that initial goal was met, the team set the next marker at $5 million, which took about a year to achieve.
“Since then, we have continued to push our goals, and ourselves, higher,” said Rosenstock. “Setting good goals is like adding gasoline to the fire.”
“We have continued to push our goals — and ourselves — higher. Setting good goals is like adding gasoline to the fire.”
The turning point for Crafty actually came at the height of the pandemic. Although the situation brought immense challenges, it also represented a significant point in the business’s growth journey. Since Crafty started as a food and beverage provider for in-person office gatherings, when many companies were pushed into remote work, it forced the leaders of Crafty to get, well, crafty.
First, the team talked to their customers to get an understanding of the varying situations across organizations and workplaces, so Crafty could pivot to better meet their needs. The team then explored new projects, starting with what became its Crafty in a Box offering, which extends in-office perks to remote employees, improving engagement during a dark time.
The company also shifted its business to an ‘asset-light’ model, partnering with distributors in markets where it didn’t already have an established presence so it could service clients with multiple locations.
Lastly, in what team members consider a true differentiator for the company, Crafty continued its investment in technology. Recognizing the need to quickly rely on digital software to connect people and businesses, the company expanded its platform with client-facing software.
A Centralized Platform for Decentralized Teams
Today, the Crafty platform is an operating system built for workplace leaders to manage their Crafty serviced food and beverage programs: It virtualizes location inventory and employs supply chain logic to automate ordering, streamlining the process for office managers to ensure shelves are never empty and stocked with products employees love. Moreover, it offers transparency into clients’ spending and consumption data, order and billing history, current and available products to request, and onsite tasks completed. The platform is particularly well-suited for office managers and workplace experience leaders who want to consolidate their vendors and provide hybrid employees across multiple locations with meaningful food and beverage options.
“Crafty is not only a software company, we are also an industry-leading service provider,” says Rosenstock. “As a tech-enabled service provider of workplace food and beverage, our operations team brings the Crafty experience to life for our clients in the 35 global markets where we operate.”
Crafty’s global reach started with just four people making keg deliveries around Chicago. Soon the company became known for its bespoke menu of curated items — everything from cans of matcha green tea to grass-fed beef jerky. However, what really made the company able to scale was a continued ability to not only roll with the punches but level up with nearly every round.
“Crafty is not your typical ‘grow at all costs’ startup,” says Rosenstock. “We have taken a methodical approach to hiring in departments across the business, such as technology, revenue and operations teams. In order to build our dreams into a reality, we are building out an incredible technology team across all disciplines: engineering, product, design and data.”
“In order to build our dreams into a reality, we are building out an incredible technology team across all disciplines: engineering, product, design and data.”
Crafty’s platform serves as a bridge between the tech industry and the food service industry. Rosenstock noted that Crafty’s software has the potential to deliver a new wave of digital transformation. Considering that the tech in the food industry is often heavily reliant on functionality, many times the user experience is left under-attended. When it comes to the side of the food industry that works with offices, Crafty is lightyears ahead.
Rosenstock paused, quoting the book Rethinking Real Estate: “The office of the future is not a single location; it is a network of spaces,” he said. “For Crafty, we are combatting the decentralization of workplaces with a centralized platform for our clients to manage their food and beverage programs across all of their offices.”
Hiring For Upward Mobility
In the last three years, Crafty has taken home numerous wins — like opening a new headquarters in Chicago. Crafty also secured $10 million in funding. The growth isn’t going unnoticed nationally either. Inc. listed Crafty on its Inc. 5000 list, placing it among the top 5,000 fastest-growing private companies in America. The influx of funds has helped Crafty steadily bring in new talent who can grow alongside the company.
“In looking to the future, we pay close attention to younger generations who will approach work very differently than the workforce of today,” notes Rosenstock.
He mentions how this younger workforce seeks out and thrives in a more digitally-native space than other generations of workers.
“For workplace food service, we predict a new wave of digital transformation and plan to maintain our position on the cutting edge of that opportunity by continuing to invest in proprietary technology development,” he said.
Like many companies, Crafty had to downsize during the pandemic, but tried to do so as a last resort. Since then, Crafty has more than doubled its workforce, rehiring many of the employees affected by its pandemic downsizing.
“As a result of well-rounded, diverse hiring we see a lot of internal movement, both upwards and lateral,” says Rosenstock.
“As a result of well-rounded, diverse hiring we see a lot of internal movement, both upwards and lateral.”
Rosenstock shared several examples of Crafty employees. One started out in delivery operations before moving into client support and eventually onto the marketing team. Another started in field operations, joined the account management team and now works as an associate product manager. Lastly, a barista with Crafty rose to manage the cafe program before transitioning to the revenue enablement team.
“We are extremely proud of these stories, and more importantly, of these individuals, who today are contributing to the business in ways that we never expected when they first joined Crafty,” boasted Rosenstock.
Crafty recently boasted a 98 percent voluntary employee retention rate — a metric that the company sees as a measurement of what makes the workplace stand out. “Tenure is an extremely valuable asset for early-stage businesses,” commented Rosenstock. “Our people are what make Crafty such a unique workplace, and they are the reason for our success.”
“Our team is executing at a progressively higher level each day and weaving operational excellence into the fabric of our culture,” notes Rosenstock. “For Crafty, the time is now.”