LAFAYETTE, La. – Today, Gov. John Bel Edwards and Waitr Holdings Chairman and CEO Chris Meaux announced the rapidly growing technology firm will locate its Lafayette headquarters in the city’s downtown district, where Waitr will deliver 200 new direct jobs.
The 200 new direct jobs will provide an average yearly salary of $55,000, plus benefits. Louisiana Economic Development (LED) estimates the project will result in an additional 227 new indirect jobs, for a total of 427 new jobs in Acadiana and surrounding regions. Waitr will retain 315 existing full-time jobs in Louisiana, and it also employs thousands of delivery drivers.
“From an idea to a small business, and from a small business to a major disruptor in the food delivery industry, Waitr is an example of Louisiana ingenuity with a strong vision for growth,” Gov. Edwards said. “This brand can be found on our smartphones and at our favorite restaurants. Now that Waitr delivers well beyond our state’s borders, I’m proud to say that this ingenious technology firm was born in Louisiana and continues to thrive here. Waitr’s expansion in Lafayette demonstrates the company’s commitment to our state, to our people, and to our growing startup culture.”
For the announcement, Gov. Edwards joined Meaux, LED Secretary Don Pierson, other elected officials, economic development leaders, and the public in a Waitr Day Block Party in downtown Lafayette. Over the next 18 months, the company is expanding into 48,000 square feet of office space in the former Washington Life Building located on Jefferson Street in Lafayette. Founded in Lake Charles where it continues to operate headquarters functions, Waitr also operates a Technology Operations Center in Lafayette on Bertrand Drive. Its on-demand food delivery connects restaurants to consumers, and it currently operates in over 500 cities with thousands of restaurant partners across the U.S. The Lafayette expansion will support Waitr’s growth and online and mobile software solutions for the restaurant industry.
“Today’s announcement is a culmination of the hard work, enthusiasm, ideas and partnerships that have all come together to make Waitr the success that it is,” Meaux said. “Our commitment to Lafayette and Louisiana is unwavering; and as Waitr has grown, I have discovered that partnering with local restaurants has not only driven our success, but resulted in our mutual success. Today, we are very happy to collaborate with new partners, including the technology companies in Lafayette. We thank Gov. Edwards, Sec. Pierson, LED, the Lafayette Economic Development Authority, and the City of Lafayette for not only making us feel at home, but for their commitment to Louisiana’s entrepreneurial community.”
LED and the Lafayette Economic Development Authority (LEDA) began discussing the potential expansion with Waitr in August 2018. To secure the project, the State of Louisiana offered the company a competitive incentive package that includes a $1.5 million performance-based grant to offset headquarters facility renovation costs; a $1.25 million higher education grant to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette to support a pipeline of talent to Waitr and other technology employers through the university’s School of Computing and Informatics; and the comprehensive workforce solutions of LED FastStart, the nation’s No. 1 state workforce training program. Waitr also is expected to utilize Louisiana’s Quality Jobs Program.
“From their first delivery, Waitr has been a strong community partner in Lafayette,” said Lafayette Mayor-President Joel Robideaux. “Today is confirmation that they have embraced our city as much as we have embraced them. Waitr is being woven into the fabric of Lafayette, and I extend my congratulations to them for their continued success.”
In a retention feature of the headquarters expansion project, the State of Louisiana will direct $200,000 per year over five years, for a total of up to $1 million in a state-supported venture capital program. The performance-based grant will provide the venture capital funds annually as Waitr maintains its headquarters in the state, and the company will provide input on angel, startup and venture capital investments made through the fund.
“We’ve worked tirelessly to grow Lafayette’s tech sector and establish the Opportunity Machine as the premier entrepreneurial incubator on the Gulf Coast,” said LEDA President and CEO Gregg Gothreaux. “As a community, we’ve worked in a singular direction – diversification of our economy using technology to produce quality jobs for our graduates and our citizens. The team at Waitr embodies the entrepreneurial spirit of the region that has driven so much of the community’s progress over the past 50 years. We look forward to working with Waitr as they continue to grow in and support the community.”
In January, Waitr completed the acquisition of Minneapolis-based Bite Squad and expanded its presence to 22 states. That move followed Waitr’s $308 million merger with Landcadia Holdings Inc. in November 2018 and its debut as a publicly traded company on the Nasdaq exchange. In 2018, Waitr realized a 200 percent increase in revenue.
“Waitr has been a true South Louisiana success story,” said President and CEO Troy Wayman of One Acadiana. “From incubation, to proof of concept, to its incredible growth and expansion, Waitr is a testament to the strength of Acadiana’s tech sector and its world-class workforce. By supporting our tech entrepreneurs, we’re creating jobs, enabling business growth, and making our region a national and global leader in innovation. 1A is proud to see this company continue to grow and call South Louisiana home.”
After developing the concept in an idea-sharing event, Meaux established Waitr at the SEED Center of Lake Charles. The company utilized LED’s Small and Emerging Business Development Program for managerial and technical assistance and peer help in solving business challenges and identifying best practices. LED’s Economic Gardening Initiative pointed Waitr to new markets through intensive data research. The company expanded from a Lake Charles headquarters to a Lafayette technology center, and offices in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Shreveport and Covington. Today, Waitr employs over 5,800 office employees, software developers and drivers in Louisiana, and has more than 1 million active users nationwide.
“The University of Louisiana at Lafayette is very pleased to continue to play a meaningful role in recruiting and growing high-tech companies that helps economic development and diversification in our region,” said UL Lafayette President Joseph Savoie. “The university is very appreciative of this grant from LED and the governor’s support that will allow us to strengthen our academic programs, create certification programs, and produce high-quality and well-trained students that have the skills to meet Waitr’s technology needs.”
“Downtown Lafayette is thrilled to welcome Waitr to their new corporate office on Jefferson Street. Their investment in downtown sends a clear message that this is an attractive and viable place to do business,” said CEO Anita Begnaud of Lafayette’s Downtown Development Authority. “We are excited about the impact Waitr’s presence will have on the vibrancy of the heart of our city.”