Everyone wants to eat healthier, but $10 smoothies just don’t fit into most people’s budgets. And $12 salads aren’t going to cut it when you’re trying to feed a family with a limited income.
That’s where entrepreneurs Sam Polk and David Foster come in. They are founders of a new company called Everytable, a brilliant new model for fast food. The grab-and-go meals at their storefront locations are delicious, nutritious, and surprisingly affordable.
“When we talk about our mission, we say we’re democratizing healthy food,” says Foster. “We want to make good food available to everyone.”
Rewind back to 2013 when Polk, a former hedge fund trader, founded a nonprofit called Groceryships. The idea was to provide parents in underprivileged neighborhoods with the tools they needed to make healthy meals for their families—everything from cooking classes to free produce.
Foster, who worked for a private equity firm, saw how much the organization was accomplishing and started volunteering on a regular basis.
“I think we both have similar rationales for leaving the financial world,” says Foster. “Personally, I loved a lot of the work I did, and many of my best friends are still in that world. But I wanted to apply my skills to a different problem.”
About that time, Polk and Foster started hearing from many people who were taking advantage of Groceryships.
“Most of the work we were doing was in South Los Angeles,” says Polk. “Time and time again, I’d hear from people saying, ‘Hey, I’m a single mom with four kids and two jobs, and the truth is I don’t have time to cook.’ Here, that usually means McDonald’s and Taco Bell.”
That’s when they came up with the idea for Everytable. The average meal at their South L.A. location costs less than $4. That’s more affordable than a value meal at a fast food restaurant.
And we’re not talking about prepackaged sandwiches and bags of chips. Created by award-winning chefs, these are full, filling meals. For example, the blackened fish comes with sides of braised collard greens, black-eyed peas, and sweet potato puree.
“Our menu celebrates cultures and cuisines of Los Angeles,” says Polk. “We serve everything from Jamaican jerk chicken to Mexican pozole rojo.”
How do they keep the prices so low? The eateries don’t have their own kitchens. All the food is prepared in a central commissary kitchen and delivered to individual locations and displayed in refrigerated cases.
“Our model is incredibly cost efficient,” says Polk, a member at WeWork Culver City. “We’ve cut down on the costs of labor and overhead to deliver our meals for $3.75 or $3.85. And even at that price, we can be profitable.”
The company’s first storefront location, at 1101 West 23rd Street in South L.A., opened at the end of July. Foster says that he and other Everytable staffers met with local leaders in advance, letting them know about their plans for bringing healthier food to the neighborhood.
“The response from the local community has been incredible,” says Foster. “We had a groundswell of support even before we opened, and we’ve continued to grow over the past several months.”
Foster says many customers aren’t just picking up a meal or two. Some are buying 10 at a time and stocking up for the week.
The company’s second location, in Downtown L.A. near WeWork Fine Arts Building, is scheduled to open in December or January. They hope to have 10 to 20 by the end of 2017.
Polk says that he hopes Everytable will eventually expand to other parts of the state, but he’s thrilled that the company started in his hometown.
“This city really does serve as a great testing ground,” says Polk. “It’s very densely packed, has a diverse population, and has a vast income disparity between the different neighborhoods. We couldn’t have picked a better place to start our company.”