As a key member of the bombsquad leadership team, Nathan’s experience within the food industry massively shapes the way in which Foodbomb operates today.
We asked him to share a little bit about his passion for tech, his earliest memories of food and how he got started in the industry that led him to his current role pioneering CX for Foodbomb customers!
I've only ever worked for the sectors that serve hospitality - never in a bar, pub or club as such; I’ve always owned my own businesses. Foodbomb is the third company I’ve ever worked for.
My ethos is that if 30% or more of your work needs to be related to your passion then you will be happy and excel in what you do. I have been fortunate enough to be able to build my current career being self employed in sectors that I love.
My passions are cooking and food, which, in turn means that I love the food industry. I studied business and marketing, and then went straight into owning and starting my own businesses which were fine wine shops and grocery stores. My love was for food, not for retail, however, I always really valued interacting with customers, so I guess those were the early beginnings of my relationship with customer experience.
The future of everything is tech - a business such as Foodbomb enables me to bring my passion for food and vision of tech in hospo, together.
When you’re just starting out, especially at a young age - the way that I did, you pioneer what is available to you and constantly look for things that will make life easier and help you do business in a better or smarter way. We were definitely always looking for that edge and it was always technology that provided it. There was a certain level of equipment that helped, but it was predominantly technology.
When I was operating my own business, I was very much trying to evolve and adapt to what was new which admittedly, at times, was too much too fast. However, as I sold those businesses, it led me to ask myself how I could fuse this curiosity into what was next for me in the nature of being my own operator in a food business.
There were very few of us in Sydney when I started out in Food-tech seven years ago, so I was fortunate enough to get myself a role in what was then, a new, up and coming industry and have the opportunity to learn what tech offered in the market and within our sector. I love what it brings to businesses because it still allows that consultative approach to the industry which I think is incredibly important.
Commonly, CX functions are very much about ‘the online’ but given the nature of the hospitality industry, there is an equal amount - if not more, happening offline. We have a lot of experience with that at Foodbomb and we can bridge the gap between the online and offline world very quickly; we really have transformed what is hard to capture.
My deep understanding of both customers and the industry as a whole, enables me to act as a conduit between customer and product. I translate this into tangible and insightful data for our product team so that they can focus on constantly improving the product experience for both customers.
Coming from a family of Italians who grew up in Eritrea, I felt an early connection to food. I have a really big family and the kitchen was where everyone would get together and socialise. As a kid, I remember approaching my childhood kitchen, coughing because of all the spicy food being cooked. I later learned that this spicy food was a dish called ‘Zigni’; it was something that you couldn’t and wouldn’t eat all of the time.
In my early twenties, the memory came back to me - or rather the absence of it over the last decade. The spice was hard to find in Sydney as there wasn’t a huge East African community back then and the dish could only be made when the spice was sent over from abroad. Once my uncle in Rome had passed, my family had no way of accessing it and stopped cooking the dish altogether - without me realising, this fond memory disappeared.
On one of my first trips to Melbourne, I met an Eritrean Uber driver who spoke Italian and I told him about my desire to find this dish and cook it for my family, without knowing anything about it. He then told me about the East African community in Footscray where we met the next day and walked in and out of shops, smelling spices and attempting to recall a memory of being 5 years old. Hours later, we happened upon a lady who presented us with a brick of dark red powder called ‘berbere’, which, after all this time, ended up being the missing puzzle piece to creating this sentimental dish. She gave me half and I took it back to Sydney with me. I held it for a few months and at Christmas, gave my uncles and aunties 500g each and watched as their faces lit up.
I’m now the master of cooking it and go down to Footscray frequently to buy a few kilos of berbere to bring back to Sydney for my family - it instantly brings me back to my childhood, so I can’t even imagine how nostalgic it must be for them.
Nathan Lo Russo is our Customer Experience king here at Foodbomb.
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