Waitr, Lake Charles

Louisiana plants seeds for Waitr growth

Waitr, a technology-driven restaurant delivery brand, quickly became a household name in emerging markets while attracting new communities clamoring for Waitr service in their areas. To facilitate that growth, the company assembled a major announcement in Waitr’s birthplace, Louisiana.

In June 2016, founder Chris Meaux joined state, regional and local leaders to announce a new 100-job Waitr Technology Operations Center in Lafayette. LED estimated the project would result in another 107 new indirect jobs. The 100 new direct jobs would join Waitr’s 129 existing headquarters jobs where the company was born, in Lake Charles, Louisiana. To support the new operations center, the State of Louisiana offered Waitr the comprehensive workforce solutions of LED FastStart® — the No. 1 state workforce training program in the nation.

“Having been advised that we should look outside of Louisiana to launch a technology venture, I am proud to say that we have proven that theory wrong,” Meaux said. “We haven’t had a shortage of software engineers. We haven’t had a shortage of talent. And I don’t think we will. We anticipate more successful recruiting efforts in a state that makes many tremendous resources available to small businesses, including the Economic Gardening Initiative and the Small and Emerging Business Development Program. These programs have proven essential to our success.”

Waitr attracts venture capital

In March 2017, an investment group including New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees provided a $10 million capital infusion in Waitr, signaling a vote of confidence from one of Louisiana’s most notable names. Waitr completed and dedicated the Lafayette facility in May 2017 as the company’s month-over-month sales growth reached 20 percent. 

Waitr’s strategy of targeting small- to medium-sized cities, often overlooked by competitors, paid off for the company. That strategy and the company’s rapid growth caught the attention of a billionaire investor. Tilman Fertitta, owner of the Houston Rockets NBA franchise, recently had created a special-purpose company targeting acquisition of high-growth firms. Fertitta’s holdings include Landry’s Inc. – a dining, hospitality, entertainment and gaming corporation consisting of many brands that already used the Waitr app.

After a Landry’s executive encouraged Fertitta to consider Waitr as an acquisition opportunity, Fertitta and his investment partners began an in-depth examination of the local food-delivery industry. Fertitta’s team later traveled by helicopter to Lake Charles to hear Meaux pitch Waitr’s potential in an investment presentation.

Following a negotiation period, Waitr landed its biggest delivery to date: Fertitta’s special acquisition company, Landcadia Holdings Inc., announced plans to merge with Waitr and pay a minimum $50 million in cash to Waitr’s equity holders and pay an additional $258 million in the combined company’s common stock after a deal that would take the company public later in 2018. Waitr remains headquartered in Lake Charles, and company leadership continues in place, with Fertitta and a partner joining the board of directors.

Small business success, delivered

From a concept to a small business to a major employer in Louisiana, and beyond — Waitr represents a perfect example of how LED’s Small Business Services can foster innovation and support startup ventures as they expand. Under the visionary leadership of Chris Meaux, Waitr has launched successful operations in dozens of cities across the South. Today, the company has over 2,000 employees in Louisiana – including contract delivery staff – and partnerships with 4,700 restaurants. The Waitr app now claims a growing base of food enthusiasts and dine-at-home users as the Waitr brand expands nationwide.