The concept is nothing new: You buy something and a portion of the proceeds go to benefit someone else. It makes you feel better about times you spent money on some crap you probably didn’t really need. But let’s say you went into a Downtown LA restaurant and bought a Jamaican jerk chicken bowl for $8.95 with the knowledge that your money would be used to underwrite the sale identical Jamaican jerk chicken bowls sold for just $4.50 at another restaurant location only a few miles away in a poorer neighborhood in South LA. Would that give you the same feeling? Or would it make you feel cheated
The forthcoming Los Angeles-based mini-chain Everytable is hoping customers will feel their business model is more of the former than the latter when that exact plan comes to fruition this year. The brand’s first outpost in South LA debuts this Saturday with the second Downtown location coming this fall. Menu items will be the same – literally cooked in the same central kitchen – but prices will be set by the needs of the neighborhood. “We don’t love the word subsidize because each store is designed to be individually profitable,” co-founder and chief executive Sam Polk told the New York Times, explaining his company’s unique model. “I think it’s similar to Toms, where you buy a pair of shoes knowing that someone else in some needy part of the world is going to get a similar pair of shoes for nothing,” he later elaborated.
Anyone who’s ever ordered a Whopper at the airport knows sometimes the same chain can sell the same menu items at different prices based on location, but beyond extenuating circumstances like being trapped on the other side of a TSA line, these kind of drastic price differences rarely happen just a couple neighborhoods apart. But Everytable isn’t about maximizing profits; it’s about offering affordable food in areas that might not have many options. “We started by taking cost out of the model so that we’d be able to serve meals at a price point comparable to the fast food, which is the only thing available in many of these less affluent neighborhoods,” said the company’s other co-founder, David Foster. “Living in poverty is not just about not having enough money, it’s also about inconvenience,” he later added.
At least one industry insider, Michael Kaufman, told the Times he believes the concept might actually have legs if Everytable presents the price differences in a way customers can get behind. “I think the key to it will be how they tell their story,” said Kaufman.
Like the story of Robin Hood! Or, on second thought, maybe that’s not the best example.