Feb 28, 2014 · 4 minutes

GrubHub, the takeout-ordering service that merged with Seamless in 2013, today announced that it has filed to go public with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. The filing states that GrubHub hopes to raise $100 million in the IPO. It will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the "GRUB" symbol.

The filing talks-up GrubHub's performance in 2013: the company is said to have "processed more than 135,000 combined Daily Average Grubs," operated in some 600 cities, and processed "approximately $1.3 billion of combined Gross Food Sales." Its service is reportedly used by more than 28,000 restaurants in the US.

The company claims a 67 percent increase in revenues between 2012 and 2013, with a total of $137 million. (Some $26.3 million was contributed by GrubHub; the rest came from Seamless or the merged company.) Orders from mobile devices increased from 20 percent in December 2011 to 43 percent in December 2013.

A good sign for food startups?

A growing number of startups are seeking to change the way we order, prepare, and consume food. The category ballooned in 2013, as Pando alum Erin Griffith reported in November:

In the first nine months of this year, food-related startups have raised $798.1 million in venture funds. That includes everything from online ordering to loyalty rewards to recipes and restaurant marketing.

Meal kit services like Blue Apron ($8 million), Plated ($3.5 million), HelloFresh ($17 million), Fresh Dish ($500,000), Greeling ($5.2 million), ChefDay and Munchery  ($7.92 million) are popular. Peer-to-peer platforms like Kitchensurfing ($4.5 million), Kitchit, and Feastly connect private chefs with dinner party hosts and hungry diners. Relay Foods ($13 .3 million) and Abe’s Market ($9.08 million) do online grocery ordering; Good Eggs $10.5 million) connects you to local farmers. ChowNow ($4 million) and Ordr.in ($768,000) offer ordering platforms for restaurants. Red Book Connect helps restaurants schedule inventory and training; Shiftgig ($3 million) and Easy Pairings offer hiring platforms specifically for food service. Food52 sells fancy kitchen gear alongside its recipe and cooking blog (undisclosed size of round). The list goes on. GrubHub's performance on the public market could help investors gauge the burgeoning food startup ecosystem -- assuming investors believe that GrubHub belongs to the category. The company doesn't have much to do with food besides improving the experience of ordering it; compared to startups that send boxed, ready-to-cook meals or allow consumers to order food online, GrubHub's relation to food is minimal.

A welcome breeze for the windy city?

Perhaps the biggest Chicago-related tech story of the last few years was Groupon's swift rise and swifer fall, which Kevin Kelleher covered last February:

In short, the numbers inside Groupon’s earnings report don’t suggest so much the image of a company that is hitting a series of speed bumps. It’s closer to driving recklessly along the shoulder of the road until your car is stuck in a ditch and getting out and wondering if you’ll have to call a tow truck. The 26-percent decline in its stock price today reflects that concern.

Groupon’s aggressive, high-risk approach to growth has left a lot of unanswered questions over its operations: Can it succeed internationally? How long will it spill red ink? Will it generate or burn more cash in the long run? But the biggest question concerning its stock is this one: How long does the company have before investors lose patience with the company and dump their shares? Pando's Michael Carney spent a week in Chicago to place Groupon's decline in perspective and placed GrubHub on the top of a list of the city's five most-likely IPO candidates:

Groupon quickly turned into a cautionary tale of growing (revenue, personnel, prominence, etc.) at the expense of sustainability. Despite a particularly tumultuous lead-up to its IPO, Groupon went public on November 4, 2011 at a price of $20 per share, valuing the company at more than $13 billion. Today, less than two years later, the company is trading at $8.88 (up from a 12 month low of $2.60) with a market capitalization of approximately $5.88 billion, and is operating with an interim CEO, following the board’s firing of founding CEO Andrew Mason.

Groupon still has a 10-figure valuation, and employs 2,700 Chicagoans among its 8,000 global employees. But, needless to say, the company has lost much of its luster, and the Chicago startup and technology community could do with a new hero company. I spent the last week on the ground in the windy city, meeting with those entrepreneurs and investors tasked with creating the next city-defining companies, to get a better idea of what Chicago has waiting in the wings.

The Yelp problem

Yelp and GrubHub used to have little overlap. The former company focused on helping consumers find something to eat (especially in a new city) while the latter allowed them to order take-out without having to talk on the phone.

But Yelp has recently expanded its offering by adding Eat24, an ordering service similar to GrubHub, to its mobile app. Now that consumers can both find and order food with Yelp, why would they choose to use a service like GrubHub?

GrubHub will have to learn a lesson from its new rival: keep innovating and adding value, because the food market will chew up and spit out any company that dares to stand still.

Bill Gurley: GrubHub is the most underrated company in Benchmark Capital's portfolio

During our PandoMonthly interview with him, Benchmark Capital parter Bill Gurley identified GrubHub as the most underrated company in the venture firm's portfolio. (Interestingly enough, the firm also invested in Yelp -- the discussions going on over there must be entertaining, at the very least.)

[This story is breaking, and this post will be updated as we learn more]

[Illustration by Hallie Bateman for Pando]