NEW YORK -- Wall Street has a major craving for takeout.
Investors sent shares of GrubHub Inc. up nearly 40 percent Friday following an initial public offering that valued the online food ordering service at more than $2 billion.
GrubHub is one of four companies to go public Friday in what has been a very hot IPO market, especially for businesses in the cloud software and biotech industries. There have been 71 IPOs priced so far this year, up 115 percent from the same time last year, according to IPO investment adviser and research company Renaissance Capital.
"Investors are looking for growth in a slow-growth economy," says Kathleen Smith, a Renaissance Capital principal.
Smith said she is seeing signs of investors getting more cautious, though, after some hot debuts quickly cooled off. One such company is Castlight Health Inc. Shares of the cloud-based health care software company more than doubled on their first day of trading last month. But the stock is now down about 50 percent from the high of $41.95 it reached during its March 14 debut.
Whether GrubHub can hold on to its gains remains to be seen. The company is attractive to investors because of its potential to grow in a new field, says Smith.
GrubHub is trying to change the way people order takeout from restaurants. Instead of calling in an order, people can order meals online or through a few taps on a smartphone app, and can search through many restaurants at once by cuisine or other specifications. The Chicago-based firm makes money by taking a percentage of each order. The company doesn't say how much it charges, but restaurant owners have said it's about 15 percent. The more that a restaurant pays, the higher it appears in GrubHub's listings.
CEO Matt Maloney said most people in the country are still ordering food with a paper menu and a telephone call. "It's ridiculous," he said. "That's where the growth is."
GrubHub launched national TV campaigns last year to convert people to online ordering. The company also owns Seamless, another online takeout company. GrubHub and Seamless merged in August, but both still operate separately. While more people use GrubHub, Seamless is popular along the East Coast.
"It's like a religion in New York," said Maloney.
GrubHub also owns Allmenus.com and MenuPages, which posts menus from restaurants across the country. The company has 3.4 million active users and had revenue of $137.1 million in 2013, up 67 percent from the year before.
The company does have competition. Rivals Eat24 and Delivery.com compete in some of the same major cities as GrubHub. Even online review site Yelp Inc. allows users to order takeout from its site, thanks to partnerships with Eat24 and Delivery.com.
Maloney said restaurants can use multiple services if they choose, since the business owners don't have to pay anything upfront.
"It's irrelevant for my business," he said.
GrubHub raised $192.5 million Friday after pricing more than 7.4 million shares at $26 each. That was better than the company's previously expected range of $23 to $25 per share. The stock is trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol "GRUB."
In afternoon trading, shares surged $8.91, or 34 percent, to $34.91, and hit a high of $40.79 earlier in the session.
Among the other companies that debuted Friday:
• IMS Health Inc.'s shares rose $3.16, or more than 15 percent, to $23.11 on the NYSE after pricing at $20 per share. The health data service's ticker symbol is "IMS."
• OPower Inc.'s stock jumped $4.02, or 21 percent, to $23.02 on the NYSE after pricing at $19. Its ticker symbol is "OPWR." It provides cloud-based software to the utility industry.
• Five9 Inc.'s stock rose 60 cents, or nearly 9 percent, to $7.60, from its initial price of $7 on the Nasdaq stock market. Its business is cloud-based software for customer contact centers. Its ticker symbol is "FIVN."
Next week is expected to be busy too, with about 16 companies expected to make their stock market debut. That's the most in one week since November 2007, according to data provider Dealogic. Auto lender Ally Financial Inc., which has been under government control since the financial crisis, and hotel chain La Quinta Holdings Inc. are among the companies going public next week.