Spotlight Interview: Na’ama Moran, CEO and Co-Founder, Cheetah

A technology supply chain company operating a wholesale food and restaurant supplies marketplace, Cheetah has maintained a relatively low profile since its founding in 2015. That, however, is now changing with the company’s rapid growth and increased market presence. Earlier this year, the Pleasanton, California-based company closed a Series C round of financing totaling $60 million. In July, as reported here, Cheetah announced that it had concluded three acquisition transactions: Palo Alto Foods, Esteson, and Joseph Martin Foods. The acquisitions mark a major milestone in Cheetah’s plan to build one of the largest local and specialty, product-driven food distribution companies in the United States. Its marketplace app is already used by more than 3,000 restaurant owners and operators, according to its website, with over 350 thousand orders to date. Buyers can browse thousands of local, artisanal and specialty products and place their orders for next-day delivery.

In this interview, Na’ama Moran, CEO and Co-Founder of Cheetah, discusses the company’s unique positioning and platform capabilities, how it seeks to empower independent restaurants when it comes to market pricing, and her vision for the company going forward. She also shares a bit about her background and career trajectory in the restaurant technology space.

First off, a big congratulations on closing a Series C round of financing, totaling $60 million, earlier this year. What do you think gave your investors the confidence they needed to place such big bets on Cheetah’s future?

Cheetah is addressing a huge market – restaurant supplies is a $300 billion market in the U.S. alone. That is still behind the times from a technology and customer experience perspective. In other words, “the Amazon of restaurant supplies” does not yet exist and that’s what we aim to create. It is a huge opportunity. Secondly, food as a category has been getting a lot of attention in the last few years as the pandemic accelerated consumer adoption of online shopping for food. Restaurant owners are consumers too, and they are now expecting the same level of service from their foodservice vendors; this means a big opportunity for Cheetah to take market share from incumbents and be the leader in technology innovation and the customer experience in our space.

Cheetah bills itself as a technology supply chain company operating a wholesale food and restaurant supplies marketplace. What does that mean, exactly? What benefits does Cheetah offer and what makes it different from other players in this space?

For the restaurant owner, we offer access to a large marketplace of bulk products from food and beverages to cleaning supplies and packaging, with next-day delivery in our temp-controlled vehicles. We also offer access to unique specialty items from local producers with next-day or lead-time delivery. Our entire platform was built from the grounds up on our proprietary technology stack, which enables us to offer unique value-added benefits to customers such as midnight cutoff (we are the only distributor offering this), dynamic delivery windows, real-time inventory, and delivery tracking. Our supply chain is also built on our stack, which enables us a much more efficient demand planning, procurement, and warehouse management when compared to traditional, mom and pop distributors.  This way we can pass the resulting savings to our customers and be priced competitively. In the near future, we will be offering next-gen inventory management, cashflow management, food waste reduction, and other value-add services to our restaurant customers, creating more value and deeper differentiation and moats.

Cheetah’s marketplace app is reportedly used by more than 3,000 restaurant owners and operators, with over 350 thousand orders to date. Those are big numbers. Are your customers able to quantify the benefits financially in terms of, say, time or cost reduction for order delivery?

Absolutely! On average our customers save 10% in food and supply COGS and bring the amount of time they spend on supply chain management from an average of two hours per day to 10 minutes per day with Cheetah.

Cheetah aims to democratize the buying process by ensuring that “all customers receive the same fair price, regardless of their size or negotiating skills.” What does that mean, exactly? Is there no bulk order discounting, for example, for larger customers?

In the current foodservice market, independent restaurants do not have access to the same market pricing. Sales reps for incumbent distributors can manage pricing to optimize margins. As a result, two restaurants can be located on two sides of the same street, but still, be paying different prices for the same SKU. It’s as if Amazon showed different prices to different customers depending on who is likely to pay more…. We bring the same pricing to everyone. We are the only foodservice distributor with a radical price transparency commitment. In fact, we are the only foodservice distributor that enables you to download an app and see all our pricing with no need for credit checks, negotiations, etc. within minutes you can place an order for next-day delivery. We do offer bulk order discounts – and here again, everyone gets the same discount!

In July, Cheetah announced the acquisition of Palo Alto Foods, Esteson, and Joseph Martin Foods. What did you find to be attractive about these companies how did the acquisitions came about? How has the addition of these companies enhanced Cheetah’s capabilities and competitive strengths?

We chose to acquire Palo Alto Foods, Esteson, and Joseph Martin Foods because of their loyal customer base, complimentary product assortment, and the potential to both improve their economics and expand their revenue and margins by getting their customers to purchase from the Cheetah app. We were introduced to these companies by one of our Senior Directors who used to lead sales at Palo Alto Foods. The three distributors operated out of the same warehouse and agreed to be acquired together. In today’s post-pandemic environment, where supply chain and labor shortages are the worst they’ve ever been, small companies need to join forces with each other, if they have any hope to survive and thrive in the competition against national broadline distributors. By acquiring these distributors, we are able to increase our purchasing power, which translates into better pricing and product availability to all of our customers.

Cheetah’s expertise in technology-enabled restaurant supply chain operations is said to run deep. What is the source of that expertise and what do you view as the company’s biggest advantages?

The source of this expertise goes back to the very foundation of the company. One of our co-founders, Alon Har-Tal, who is Cheetah’s Chief Technology Officer, was the software architect for a very successful technology logistics company called Bringg, and from day 1 our customers were ordering on a mobile app with transparent pricing and real-time inventory. The fact that we started our business from scratch on our proprietary technology platform, gives us multiple competitive advantages, one of which, for example, is the ability to run AI models that improve the customer experience in demand forecast, routing, and more.

Who are some of your customers and what categories or types of restaurants are likely to benefit most from your app? Any success stories you can share?

Our customers are independent restaurant owners, with 1-2 locations, and local chains with up to 10 locations. With the acquisition of Palo Alto Foods, we are now servicing corporate foodservice, such as Google and Salesforce cafeterias, frozen yogurt shops, and schools, including Stanford University.