Can Everytable’s Model Bring Healthy Fare to the Food Deserts?

According to DoSomething.org, about 23.5 million people in the U.S. live in food deserts. These are areas where obtaining fresh and healthy food is challenging. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are in short supply, and fast food is the main fare.

Several reasons exist for these barren healthy food communities. Grocery stores may be 10 or more miles away, or towns may have a grocery store but no public transportation, leaving people without cars forced to buy local.

Crime, disabilities, and health concerns can keep people close to home and unable to walk the few miles to a store, arms laden with groceries on the return trip. There’s also the issue of affordability.

This diet leads to many of today’s prevalent chronic diseases, like diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.

Maybe, Everytable can make a difference.

Everytable’s Food Model

Everytable’s tagline is “Healthy Food Is a Human Right.” They offer ready-made nutritious meals in the form of grain bowls, salads, wraps, and healthy drinks, snacks, and desserts.

Top chefs design Everytable’s menu, which features items like homegirl salmon adobo with cauliflower rice, chili-lime chickpeas, fresh salsa verde, and adobo-spiced salmon. Additional offerings include Thai basil noodles & veggies, carnitas tacos, and pineapple pork luau bowl, to name a few.

This model doesn’t sound so different from the mega-popular Sweetgreen. The difference, however, lies in the unique pricing model, a sliding scale that allows low-income communities to partake in the wholesome food. Underserved communities receive the same delicious fare at discounted prices. For instance, a meal that costs $8 in an affluent community may cost $5 in an underserviced community.

Currently, Everytable can be found in 10 cities throughout Los Angeles County, including Baldwin Hills, Cal State Los Angeles, Watts, and Compton. Everytable’s website shows an additional 20 stores coming soon to towns such as Santa Ana and Riverside. The New York Times reported that the brand will make its way to New York in 2022 and that Polk’s ambitious expansion plans include 100 outlets in three years.

The Beginning

Sam Polk, a former hedge fund trader, and David Foster, a former private equity professional, came together in 2014 to form Groceryships. Both were on a mission to find a career with purpose and meaning. This nonprofit organization provided healthy, affordable, and free food as well as cooking lessons and nutritional education to low-income communities and parents living in food deserts.

From this experience, they started thinking about ready-made healthy meals available at McDonald’s prices. In 2015, Everytable was born, opening up five locations in one year. Their goal is to be the healthy food McDonald’s, with an Everytable on every corner, selling nutritious, delicious food at a great price.

A Few of the Many Investors

After just three months in business, the company had raised $1 million.

In 2018, Polk and Foster appeared on Shark Tank, asking for $1 million in exchange for 5% equity in the company. They defined their business as fresh and healthy foods at fast-food prices. Rohan Oza, dubbed “Hollywood’s Brandfather” by the Hollywood Reporter, asked for 10%, and a deal was born.

In November 2020, investors contributed another $16 million.

The Cost

In the current environment, where healthy salads can easily cost over $12 and food prices are rising, how does Everytable maintain its low prices and stay afloat? Their locations are small-footprint stores, 500-700 square feet, that provide the space for a wall of refrigerated display cases that holds their pre-made meals.

Chefs prepare the made-from-scratch food at commercial-scale central kitchens, and a fleet of refrigerated trucks deliver the food to the outlets and the homes of subscription customers.

Polk is very aware of the importance of an efficient supply chain, comparing his company to the likes of Amazon in 1997 when it was still in its infancy. This model enables Everytable to keep its costs low, with an average meal costing Everytable about $3.25.

Apparently, it’s working. The chain’s revenue went from $6 million in 2019 to $36 million in 2020, a year of restaurant closers and social distancing. The Times reported this revenue jump was due, in large part, to their home-delivery subscriptions and agencies looking to secure meals for those in need.

Thus far, it appears that Everytable is on the road to offering many communities healthy food at affordable prices. As Polk told the Republic, a crowdfunding investment app that accounted for 849 of Everytable’s private investors, “We aren’t just building a company, we’re building a movement of people who believe in food justice.”

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