(Source: Three Kings Pub)
This Dartmouth Alumni’s Startup Donates Meals To Local Food Banks…And All It Wants Is A Photo
Snapping and sharing high-quality pictures of one’s food has become a popular meal-time activity. Enabled by powerful smartphone cameras, it’s now possible for individuals to share where and what they are eating in real time on social media. Thanks to an innovative startup created by Washington University and Dartmouth alumni, people can now donate meals to the hungry simply by posting photos of their meals at affiliated restaurants.
Founded by Andrew Glantz and Aidan Folbe in 2014, GiftAMeal is a mobile application that partners with restaurant owners in several cities to gift meals to local food banks. As a result of heavy user engagement and supporting data, the platform is rapidly expanding throughout the country and raising hunger awareness for thousands of people.
Snap A Photo, Donate A Meal!
In order to initiate a meal donation, app users simply have to snap and post a picture of their food in the GiftAMeal app at any affiliated restaurant. That’s it. GiftAMeal will donate one meal to a local food bank for every uploaded image. Additionally, if users post pictures to their own social media accounts, GiftAMeal will make an additional donation. Since 2014, the startup has provided over 100,000 meals for the hungry!
The startup’s business model is built on monthly fees that restaurants pay in order to be included in the GiftAMeal database. The platform charges restaurants $49, $79, or $149 per month depending on their commitment level and interest in added promotional benefits. As a result of participation, restaurants benefit from additional marketing and are able to engage directly with their customers online, furthering their social media presences. Today, there are more than 90 affiliated GiftAMeal restaurants in St. Louis, Chicago, and Detroit.
A Business Born At The Table
The concept for GiftAMeal was born over a lunch between Washington University and Dartmouth alumni, Andrew Glantz and Aidan Folbe. The two were discussing several prominent trends of the current age: heavy social media engagement, the popularity of user-rated databases such as Yelp, and the public’s interest in mission-driven organizations. Out of that conversation came the inspiration for GiftAMeal which would combine all three trends in a unique way.
After its founding in 2014, the startup received a $13k grant from the Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies in addition to a $5,000 Dartmouth Founder’s Grant. GiftAMeal initially began in St. Louis but is now expanding throughout Chicago and Detroit, thanks to $165k in seed capital from a recent funding round.
In 2018, GiftAMeal published the results of a seven-month-long case study in which the company analyzed customer behavior at two St. Louis’ restaurants. GiftAMeal’s team found that customers who use their platform spent, on average, 24% more per check compared to other guests. Additionally, GiftAMeal users returned to restaurants 45% more frequently and tipped staff 14% more than non-GiftAMeal users. These data points have helped prove the startup’s value proposition to affiliated restaurants, thereby setting the company up for a strong 2019.
The Power Of Indirect Marketing
This Untold Business Spotlight Initiative highlight illustrates one way to establish a successful financial model built on indirect marketing services. GiftAMeal, itself, doesn’t actually promote any restaurants. Instead, it empowers users to provide boots-on-the-ground marketing for socially conscious restaurants. As a result of its model, GiftAMeal has the financial stability and flexibility to support local food banks and fulfill a much more meaningful purpose.
As an entrepreneur, think about ways in which you can help partner organizations generate buzz and raise awareness about their existences through your platform. If you can prove your value with case studies and objective data, you will have no trouble signing customers up who are interested in cost-effective ways to promote their services. And for those of you in St. Louis, Chicago, or Detroit, download the GiftAMeal app and start supporting local food banks today!