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Everytable Makes Good Food Available to Everyone, No Exceptions

Earl Lui

In December 2019, our board approved our largest program-related investment (PRI) to date, a $1.5 million dollar low-interest loan to Everytable, a Los Angeles-based for-profit public benefit company.

This is the first time we've made a PRI into a for-profit company. In the past, our PRIs went to community development financial institutions, which raise money from investors like us and make loans for things like affordable housing projects and small businesses in communities that often don't have banks or other mainstream financial institutions.

We decided to invest in Everytable because it’s an outstanding example of a social enterprise—a business that has social objectives instead of focusing solely on maximizing profit. In Everytable's case, its mission is to "make nutritious, fresh food affordable and accessible to all," especially in communities that lack healthy food vendors, such as South Los Angeles.

In fact, the idea for Everytable came from the residents of South Los Angeles who told the co-founder and current CEO, Sam Polk, that they needed a place to buy healthy, affordable meals on the go. Because many community residents work two jobs, and often must take public transportation, they don’t have time to prepare healthy meals for themselves. Polk had a lot of experience in this area: before starting Everytable, he founded a South Los Angeles-based nonprofit, now known as FEAST (formerly Groceryships) that provides nutrition education, healthy cooking classes, free produce and support groups to residents of South Los Angeles.

Everytable’s Unique Business Model Makes Healthy Food Affordable to All

Everytable serves healthy grab-and-go meals—salads and hot plates—through eight store locations in Los Angeles. The menu choices are informed by the communities where its stores are located, and its meals are prepared fresh every day in the central kitchen, from scratch using quality ingredients.

Everytable’s business model is very unique. First, it uses sliding-scale pricing: It charges lower prices in its five stores located in lower income neighborhoods, and higher prices in its two stores located in the affluent neighborhoods.

Second, the company prepares its meals in one central kitchen, which creates efficiencies and keeps the footprint of its stores relatively small, creating savings on real estate costs. Meals that are meant to be served hot are heated in microwaves, which are available in the stores.

Everytable is thinking big. It hopes to "redefine the food landscape the same way McDonald's did fifty years ago."
Everytable's menu choices are informed by the communities where its stores are located, and its meals are prepared fresh every day.

Cal Wellness Will Support Everytable’s Innovative Franchise Training Program

In addition to providing healthy food, Everytable has another social objective—to create jobs and wealth building opportunities for low-income residents. Everytable hires store employees from the communities they serve. For its central kitchen, it prioritizes hiring formerly incarcerated individuals. Finally, it’s committed to diversity, equity and inclusion, hiring people of color to its board, corporate staff and store and kitchen staff.

Everytable is thinking big. It hopes to "redefine the food landscape the same way McDonald's did fifty years ago." Polk believes that they can open 100-200 stores in Los Angeles alone in the coming years, but their goal is to expand to other cities and across the nation.

To help fuel its expansion, Everytable is launching a franchise program (its existing eight stores are owned by the company). But unlike the typical franchise operation requiring a franchisee to have substantial capital (often at least $250,000 plus prior business experience), the company is creating a unique program to train and provide start-up financing to entrepreneurs from underserved communities to become Everytable franchise owners/operators. That means that Everytable will seek candidates for the training program who currently lack access to capital and will actively solicit applicants from economically disadvantaged and marginalized populations.

Unlike conventional franchise operations, Everytable franchisees will not need to put in their own startup capital. Through a year-long program, the selected entrepreneurs will receive (1) on the job training in retail store environments by working at an Everytable store; (2) training on retail and business operations in a classroom setting, and (3) ongoing technical and marketing support. After completing the franchise training program, Everytable will assist its graduates with retail site selection, design and the build-out of a store.

This is where the Cal Wellness PRI comes in. Our $1.5 million, along with an additional $1 million PRI from the Annenberg Foundation, will provide the financing for Everytable to launch this innovative franchise program. The two PRIs will fund the proof of concept for this unique franchise program by providing the capital for five franchise store locations to open in Los Angeles. Assuming the pilot franchise program is successful, Everytable will raise additional outside capital to launch 20 more franchise locations.

I look forward to seeing Everytable launch the franchise program and continue its disruption of the food industry. Perhaps, one day, it will be as big as McDonald's!

Earl Lui
Program Director Earl Lui

Earl Lui leads grantmaking related to advancing health care reform and the Affordable Care Act and fostering healthy environments.

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