Most college students face a dilemma when it comes to eating at school: It’s all but impossible to find an option that’s convenient, affordable and healthy. Everytable’s subscription program, through which students can order a week of balanced meals at about half the price of similar delivery services, addresses the challenge of eating well with a packed schedule.
Everytable, a Los Angeles-based food company and social enterprise, strives to increase accessibility to healthy meals in underserved communities across the city by offering convenient, wholesome food options.
At the end of 2018, the company piloted a subscription delivery service to cater to customers with packed schedules who may live too far to make daily trips to the brick-and-mortar stores. Several of the more than 200 customers who have since purchased the meal program are USC students.
Everytable was established in 2016 and currently operates seven restaurants in the L.A. area, including one located less than a mile from campus.
According to Everytable founder and CEO Sam Polk, the average price of an Everytable meal delivered to a USC address ranges from $5 to $6. Everytable stores located in higher-income neighborhoods like Brentwood sell the same meals at higher prices — typically $7 to $8, according to General Manager of Operations and Subscription Chad Massura.
“We price our meals according to the average household income of the surrounding area,” said Massura, a 2017 graduate.
The subscription service allows students to select meals to be delivered to their dorm, apartment or home. Massura said the service was created after Everytable’s management noticed that customers tended to buy several meals at a time for themselves and their families to eat throughout the week.
“What a lot of our customers are doing is they come in on Sunday or they come in on Monday to our stores, and they stock up for the week,” Massura said. “Subscription was really built as a way to just make that easier for them.”
Everytable also operates SmartFridges at various locations around the city, including the Health Sciences Campus. This initiative was launched earlier this year. The refrigerators, which are stocked daily with healthy, locally-prepared meals and accept credit card payment, were created to address the issue of L.A. food deserts, places where fast food may be easily accessible but balanced, high-quality meals are harder to come by.
Polk said Everytable owes its low pricing to its business model, which utilizes a centralized kitchen where food is prepared daily and then delivered to each restaurant as well as subscribers around L.A.
“Every single day, at a huge kitchen, we have incredible chefs make all these meals from scratch and then package them in grab-and-go containers,” Polk said. “That means when we open a restaurant, like the restaurant on 23rd St., it’s less expensive to build and operate.”
With the centralized process of food preparation, Everytable saves money by eliminating kitchens from each of its restaurants, reducing the size of each building. The company cuts costs while keeping its food high quality and convenient, Polk said.
“What’s really amazing about this service is first of all, how good and healthy the food is,” Polk said. “A lot of the research that we’ve done around college students is that they’re looking for food that is fresh and healthy, but also, all students are on a budget, and so they need it to be affordable.”
Everytable also offers a “Pay It Forward Wall” program at all of its locations. A customer can choose to pay for an additional meal, write a message on a Post-it note and place it on the designated pay-it-forward board. Then, any customer who visits the store but is unable to pay can select a note from the wall and use it to pay for their meal.
“We don’t question why people don’t have the money or whether they don’t,” Polk said. “If you come in and you see a Post-it on that board, you can take it down and use it as cash — no questions asked.”
Massura said Everytable is addressing food insecurity on college campuses directly and plans to open more locations near other colleges as well, including Santa Monica Community College and CSU Los Angeles.
“College food insecurity is a really big issue and one that we’ve sort of been confronting head-on,” Massura said. “We think that just by basically providing healthy food at fast food prices, we can be part of many solutions to this issue.”