Skip to Content

GrubHub CEO gives himself a performance review, after a whirlwind year

GrubHub Raises $192 Million Pricing IPO Above Marketed RangeGrubHub Raises $192 Million Pricing IPO Above Marketed Range
Matt Maloney, co-founder and chief executive of GrubHub Inc., on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New YorkPhotograph by Jin Lee—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Online food ordering company GrubHub entered 2014 on the heels of a merger with competitor Seamless, executed an initial public offering, and bid adieu to co-founder Mike Evans, all in the first half of the year. To say the company tackled a lot is an understatement.

“There were a lot of balls in motion at the same time, so managing and choreographing that dance over the year was pretty challenging,” CEO Matt Maloney tells Fortune.

So far, it seems like GrubHub (GRUB) and Maloney have managed to keep pace with all of the change quite well. The company’s stock is up by a little over 9% since its April 2014 IPO, and its revenue increased by 51% in the third quarter of 2014, compared to the same period in 2013.

To pull off such growth in 2014, though, Maloney says he had to change the way he worked. “Building relationships and putting more trust in my team was a key area of growth for me in 2014. With so many changes over the last year, I’ve had to continuously assess how I need to shift my roles and responsibilities.”

After making it through the last 12 months, Maloney says he feels confident that GrubHub can handle whatever else comes down the pike. “How has that changed me as a manager and a leader? It’s given me a lot of confidence, but I really can’t take all the credit,” he says.

In the first big challenge of the year, GrubHub needed to complete its merger with Seamless, making sure that both companies’ values and cultures were represented in the combined company. “We redefined aspects of who we believe we are and we did that in a shared way,” Maloney says.

Senior leaders invited employee teams to pitch ideas for improving the business in a “Grub Tank,” modeled after the “Shark Tank” television show. The company is acting on all five of the proposals that ended up as finalists.

“One of the most daunting challenges was, how do you bring these abstract values to life in the context of everything else that’s going on with the company?” he says. For instance, the company relies heavily on restaurant and user research, and the physical experience of the food business. Now, the GrubHub’s Chicago and New York offices have an in-house restaurant called Slice, where employees package and serve their co-workers cake.

“It is a way for our dev and product teams to really experience what it was like to be a delivery restaurant team,” Maloney says. “That’s absolutely in line with some of our values … to really give people a tactile physical experience.”

It was important to keep a focus on the factors that would prepare GrubHub for long-term success. “I didn’t want the positive emotions around a successful IPO to just blow out these values, which are more fundamental and resonant to a long-term culture than just a splashy IPO,” he says.

At GrubHub, the past year was all about balancing several demanding priorities. Maloney says that it was challenging to work on the IPO—meeting with lawyers, bankers, board members, and new investors—while tending to the day-to-day needs of the company.

Most companies accomplish half as much as GrubHub did in 2014, without having to contend with the effects of a merger.

For 2015, Maloney says he will focus on putting trust in the team he’s put in place and to be a good listener. “Leadership is about guiding and supporting and listening and modifying. I don’t have all the answers and I never have. But I’ve had good hunches, and I’ve talked to a lot of smart people. And I’m able to refine those hunches into clear direction and communicate that,” he says.

It was bittersweet to see his co-founder Mike Evans leave the company, but Maloney notes that his departure had been planned for some time as the company matured and Evans grew interested in pursuing other things. “It was fun to see Mike every day. It was fun to solve problems with him collaboratively,” Maloney says. “Our friendship hasn’t gone away. We still see each other and we still talk. He’s still a significant shareholder, as he likes to remind me.”

Maloney’s leadership style has changed in the decade that GrubHub transformed from a venture-backed to a publicly traded company. “When we were venture backed, we had a smaller group of investors who were more involved in the business. Now, we have to think about how we communicate more broadly with a much wider audience of investors,” he says

“I’ve changed over the years to adapt to the needs of our organization. What the company needed from me when we were a team of two in 2004 to today when we have 800 employees across three offices is very different.”