In Los Angeles, where $9 juices and $12 salads aren’t uncommon, Everytable serves meals like Cajun fish and kale chicken Caesar salad for around $4. That’s because the fast-casual concept has a unique pricing model in which its options are priced according to the neighborhood, in an effort to make healthful fast food affordable for those in lower-income areas. So while the original unit in South LA—where the per capita annual income is $13,000—offers $4 meals, the upcoming outpost in downtown LA’s financial district will serve options at double the price. Is it crazy?
“We haven’t had too many people saying we’re crazy,” co-founder David Foster said with a laugh. “The feedback across the board has been positive … but we do have people asking us how we are making money.”
The purpose of Everytable is to bring better-for-you fast food to areas lacking healthful, convenient options. The concept began with co-founder Sam Polk, who operated a nonprofit organization called Groceryships that focused on helping lower-income families in South LA make healthy food choices through initiatives like cooking classes and free produce. But users were often single parents or those working multiple jobs, and they told Polk that what they really needed were healthful premade options so they could stop relying on fast-food chains for quick meals.
That feedback gave Polk and Foster, a volunteer with Groceryships, the idea to launch Everytable.
Here’s a look at how Everytable plans to make money through its unorthodox pricing structure.
The cornerstone of Everytable is its price model, which the brand lays out clearly on its website. According to the model, the average cost to prepare each meal is $3.85, which earns the brand only a 15-cent profit at the South LA site. But Everytable plans to make up for that low profit margin with a second location in downtown LA that’s slated to launch before the end of this year. The downtown LA meals will be exactly the same and contain the same ingredients as those in South LA, but will be priced around $8, which would garner a $4.15 profit per meal. While higher than the South LA restaurant, the prices at downtown LA are in line with meal prices at nearby fast-casual concepts like Chipotle and Jimmy John’s.
To maintain the model, Foster says all expansion will operate on a two-unit approach, with the brand launching in a lower-income area at about the same time it opens an outpost in a higher-income neighborhood. For now, Everytable plans to stick to the Los Angeles market and is considering multiple areas for additional sites, including Inglewood and Compton for its low-price prototype and West Hollywood and Marina del Rey for its higher-priced outposts.
One way Everytable keeps meal prices down is through its grab-and-go model. Meals are prepared and packaged daily off-site in a central kitchen and delivered to the restaurant. Because customers are purchasing already-prepared meals, Foster says service is quick and lines are short.
Low food costs
In addition to low operating costs, low food costs are essential to Everytable’s operation. Foster says the brand has a good relationship with its distributors, and being in farm-rich California is a definite advantage to sourcing local, quality ingredients at affordable prices.
Foster says one of the keys to Everytable’s success is making sure customers understand the concept and pricing model. “We’re trying to be as transparent as possible by talking to guests so that everyone knows what we’re about and what it means to support us.” That’s why the pricing structure is on Everytable’s website, and the restaurant features signage explaining the concept’s mission.
And so far, “Everyone really gets it,” Foster says. “Customers understand that people have different economic realities, and it makes sense to charge different prices.”
But once the downtown LA site opens, will people pay the higher prices there, or go to Everytable’s South LA restaurant for the $4 meals?
“If a customer is downtown and prefers to drive [to South LA], that’s totally great,” Foster says. “We need a lot of people to show up at each store to make them profitable and thriving.
“But our belief is that there’s plenty of demand across the board, and it will be a local crowd for each location. You could drive across town to pay a lower price, but I think convenience will ultimately trump that for most people.”