This Experimental Restaurant Concept Aims To End ‘Food Deserts’

by Jean Trinh

February 23, 2018

Photo courtesy of Everytable.

With the support of a large “Shark Tank” investment and in the midst of an already successful crowdfunding campaign, Everytable is a radical restaurant concept that serves meals with a side of social justice. 

Everytable’s model is unique, and it may be on the fast-track to expanding nationwide. It brings healthful, grab-and-go dishes to food deserts — underserved communities with a lack of access to nutritious food — as well as affluent areas but charges based on the median income of the neighborhood. While low-income area residents may be able to get a food bowl at Everytable for $4 or $5, the same dish could be $7 or $8 in a more well-off community.

Surprisingly, for those low prices, Everytable’s customers are eating dishes created by chefs with fine-dining backgrounds — think of plates with global flavors, like a Vietnamese chicken salad, smoked salmon bibimbap, and Jamaican jerk chicken.

When diners walk into an Everytable location, which all have a similar modern and minimalistic design, they’ll find walls of open refrigerators stacked with pre-packaged bowls that are made fresh daily. Customers can either heat up the food on site and eat in the restaurant or buy them in bulk and stock up their home refrigerators. It’s a store-restaurant hybrid that allows for quick in-and-out service.

Photo courtesy of Everytable.

When co-founders Sam Polk and David Foster first launched Everytable in Los Angeles in July 2016, they opened one location in the underserved community of South L.A. Now, they have five locations throughout the city, from Santa Monica to downtown Los Angeles, and plan on owning a dozen by the end of this year, including one in Compton. A third of their locations are currently in food deserts, but they’re shooting for half as they expand. If all goes accordingly to plan and the team can show that their brand’s expansion works locally, then they’ll start looking into nationwide outposts.

“The core reason we open in [food deserts] is because we believe healthy food is a human right,” says Polk, a former hedge-fund trader who now serves as Everytable’s CEO. “With the way food systems are structured right now, healthy food is something that’s a luxury product that’s only available in more affluent communities, so it’s part of the core belief of this company that every time we open in an affluent community we also have to be looking for the food-desert location to make sure [our food is] something everybody has access to.”

Each restaurant location is designed to be profitable on its own. Everytable is able to keep costs low because all the food is made in a central kitchen and then delivered to each shop. The outposts don’t have kitchens, so that removes the costs of building them. The stores also require less space to operate; the locations of each are about 700-800 square feet. Instead of a full restaurant staff, Everytable only needs a couple of employees to function.

Photo courtesy of Everytable.

In adding another layer to Everytable’s socially-conscious model, the company hires from within the communities it serves. Through partnerships with nonprofits, they employ formerly incarcerated individuals from Homeboy Industries and former foster children through The RightWay Foundation.

As a way to introduce Everytable’s concept to the world, Polk and Foster appeared on the show “Shark Tank” in late January and left with a $1 million investment from “guest shark” Rohan Oza. The next day, the duo launched a crowdfunding campaign, for which they’ve already raised over 175% of their $50,000 goal, and they will continue to raise funds until April 1.

Polk is determined to level the playing field when it comes to access to healthy foods. “The ethos of our business is pushing against the structural inequality of the world and creating a solution that works for everyone as opposed to just a certain sector of the population,” he says. “I’m driven by those food and social-justice issues and a belief that businesses can be a force for good.”

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