Social recipes for a restaurant: the same meals, different prices.
A chain restaurant charges twice as much as a restaurant, while the other restaurant charges twice as much. You’ll think it’s a recipe for angry customers.
But Everytable in Los Angeles says it will prove a successful business model and provide a heavy side to the social mission.
Here’s the concept behind the new chain: customers walk in and take away some of the precooked healthy meals prepared by chefs who worked at some of the top restaurants in Los Angeles and New York. They can microwave a meal in a restaurant or take them home. The price of everything is reasonable – although prices change with the neighborhood. The goal is to give everyone access to nutritious food.
The first site opened this summer in south Los Angeles, a low-income area. The next will soon open in a well-to-do community in downtown Los Angeles, and plans to open stores in other parts of the city. Each location will have the same exact menu and decoration, but with different pricing plans.
The founders, Sam Polk and David Foster, spoke to Robin Young, of Here&Now, in Culver, California. Their conversation was summarised as follows, with the length and clarity being edited.
Sam: in 2013, I founded a nonprofit organization called “exchange”, the group in poverty and health problems related to food, such as obesity and diabetes) work at intersections. The grocery store is in south Los Angeles with a per capita income of $13K per year. It can help parents living in the food desert – where fresh food and fast food are scarce. It helps parents’ health through a program that includes nutrition education, healthy cooking school, fresh produce and emotional support groups. We are getting a lot of news from our parents who are working together. For example, “I need food at any time, and I don’t have a lot of money, so I go to McDonald’s.”
I am a former hedge-fund traders, David is a former private equity, we basically take out your pencils, and tries to find out the concept of an enterprise, the enterprise can make a healthy food, the family grocery store services for those neighbors.
The difference between the two restaurant locations.
David: in south Los Angeles, we offer an average of less than $4. We have a variety of projects, such as kale Caesar salad and cobb salad in California, and some warm items like puebla chicken and Jamaican jerk chicken. We offer some children’s meals for $2.95. The store’s model is to try to set a reasonable price for the local community, but also compete with other commodities – such as fast food. … The second location is open downtown, about two miles from the first location, but demographics are very different here. It’s more professional. The same meal will be provided at the site, but the average is about $7.95. We think this is highly competitive with real downtown prices, such as Whole Foods and Sweet Green and Tender Greens. Those are great, healthy and quick choices, usually costing about $10 to $12. So we think that even if it’s twice the same price as the south Los Angeles store, its price is still pretty high.
David: every store is designed for personal gain. At $4 per meal in south Los Angeles, we don’t make a lot of money every time we sell. But if we have enough people out – and we’ve seen a lot of traction – it’s actually profitable. The location of the city centre will also be lucrative. So together they became part of a company that was working on improving access. Higher prices would help fund growth in two new markets.
There is a central kitchen.
The Everytable meal is prepared in the central kitchen and packaged in a container. Customers can heat them and eat them in restaurants or bring them home for later use.
Sam: the central kitchen produces a lot of healthy food. We have two cooks: a former chef at Le Cirque, one of the largest restaurants in the country. Another is the chef at Culver City, called a-frame, super hot, super local. They’re creating these dishes, like Jamaican jerk chickens and smoked fish… It’s exciting, and they’re packaged in a grab container in a restaurant. This is a very simple but important economic insight. A standard restaurant has an area of 2,500 square feet, with 10 to 15 employees and a fully equipped kitchen. Because of all these extra costs, they cannot sell healthy food at a low price. But we had 500 to 750 square feet of stores, and we didn’t need a commercial kitchen because all the food was already in the container. So we just have to hire two people in the store. So all of these savings are passed on to the customers, who have these delicious, healthy foods that are faster than entering a fast-food restaurant.
Change your attitude toward fast food.
Sam: we actually think there’s some misunderstanding on this issue, that people in south Los Angeles can get fast food, mainly because it’s the only affordable solution. We learned from the cooperation with Groceryships, now we are in the first month of Everytable saw an incredible sales, so the south central community is a big demand for healthy nutrition food.
People think that healthy food is actually what people called food 50 years ago. So what I mean by that is the incredible culinary tradition that has been around for centuries. We bring them back. We will try to serve the community, and ask: “what food do you like to cook in the tradition, but you can’t see the price at the right price at the moment?” Then we make these meals and sell them at very attractive prices. [visitors: of course, there are a lot of small joints in southern Los Angeles making delicious food, but it’s not enough to compete with fast food.]