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This Tech Startup Provides Affordable Lunch While Donating Meals to Those in Need


Kelsey Davis , Sr. Manager, Digital Media Marketing, Consumer Technology Association
TwentyTables is providing affordable meals to the DC community, while also giving back to their city. When founder and CEO, Alex Cohen, worked downtown, he struggled to find affordable lunch options. He set out to find a solution to this problem, while also giving back to his community.

We had a chance to speak with Alex about how TwentyTables was first started, how it works and what’s next for this startup. ​

How did you first come up with the idea for TwentyTables? What problem were you trying to solve?

I worked in downtown DC for the last 15 years, and struggled to find an affordable lunch. My choices were brown bagging, hunting for a Groupon or other discount, or paying $12-17 per meal. I didn't like any of those options! Brown bagging took extra time and effort, and led to a lot of food waste and forgotten lunches. Discounts were temporary and not always relevant, and $17 is too much to pay for lunch! I needed a predictable and affordable option that let me choose delicious foods and stay within my budget.
 
Due to my work with the healthcare industry, I knew that a Group Purchasing Organization model could bring the price down for consumers by aggregating their buying power. I negotiated $6 flat fee lunches with over 100 DC restaurants and food trucks, while bringing the restaurants profitable new business at no charge. But DC is my home, and affordable lunches for professionals was only one part of the problem.
 
We needed to also feed the community, including those who can't afford to buy their own meals. So for every 20 meals we serve, we donate five to the hungry and food-insecure through our charity partners. We call this our ‘Community of Food’; we make restaurant quality food affordable to the 50 percent of budget conscious people who currently brown bag their lunch, help restaurants drive new business and reduce food waste, and help feed the hungry in our city.
 
Tell us a little about how TwentyTables works and the technology behind it.
 
TwentyTables’ mobile apps allow consumers or employers to buy five-packs of tickets. Lunch meals from over 100 DC restaurants and food trucks are one ticket, and dinner meals are two tickets. Customers pick from over 150 lunch options each day, choose the time, and pick it up. They can even coordinate with friends and coworkers inside the app about when and where to eat.
 
Restaurants use the same app to sign-up and supply three to five meals that they want to sell that day (including at least one vegetarian option). Restaurants can update availability in real time, turning off an option if they run out, or turning on if they have extra inventory or specials (like happy hour, daily specials, or flash sales). Most restaurants and food trucks turn on from 11-3 Monday through Friday, then again for dinner around 5 pm.
 
For employers looking to recruit and retain top talent, they can buy their employees meal tickets for just $30 a week and have five meals donated per employee each month. This is about the same price as “free lunch Friday” catering or a team happy hour, but the employee gets lunch where they want, when they want every day.
 
A company of just 100 employees donates 6,000 meals a year, supports local DC businesses, reduces food waste, saves their employees money, and supports wellness. This is a turnkey benefit and Corporate Social Responsibility program all in one.
 
What is TwentyTables’ mission?
 
Our mission is to create a Communtiy of Food that ends hunger in all forms in DC and beyond.
 
What is next for TwentyTables?
 
In 2019, TwentyTables intends to deepen its relationships at home, and start exploring and branching out to strategic new markets. We’re actively engaging new partners to help with that expansion, and we’re excited about what’s ahead!
 
Learn more about TwentyTables and more incredible CTA member companies.


 

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