Operations

Protein Bar & Kitchen launches office delivery program

The fast casual’s Minibar service offers free lunch drop-offs for large offices in a bid to make delivery cost-effective.
Photograph courtesy of Protein Bar

Fast-casual chain Protein Bar & Kitchen launched a large-batch delivery program for office buildings, designed to boost convenience for consumers while scaling delivery to make it most cost-effective.

The service, called Minibar, allows an office building to receive a direct-ordering link, accessible via mobile phone or computer, for employees to place lunch orders. All orders are delivered together, to a predetermined location in the office, by Protein Bar.

“We’re really looking for a way to add another layer of convenience to the ways consumers experience our brand,” Protein Bar COO Jared Cohen said.

The program is similar to Sweetgreen’s Outpost service, in which the chain offers free delivery to large offices with designated pickup shelving. Sweetgreen has added nearly 800 Outpost locations since its launch in 2018, according to media reports.

Protein Bar will drop off orders wherever a building requests, Cohen said. Once the order is delivered, everyone who is expecting lunch receives an email notification.

“Around the drop-off time, you start to get people hovering,” he said. “We wanted to solve for that.”

Health-focused Protein Bar has 19 units, in Chicago, Colorado and Washington, D.C.

Currently, the Chicago-based chain has partnered with offices that are within walking distance of its stores, he said. But the chain is also open to self-delivery via bike or car, he said.

“It’s a little similar to catering,” Cohen said. “You have a lead time. We usually give our restaurants about an hour between order cutoff and delivery time. … The only nuance to it is because it’s a bunch of small, individual orders, there’s a premium around making sure that order is tagged with that person’s name. We’ve built some systems in place to help ensure order accuracy.”

A detailed packing list is created for each office order, he said.

Cohen said Minibar has been attracting a “growing number” of partners since the service launched last week but declined to give an exact total.

So far, the program has been labor-neutral, he said, with office-delivery orders completed alongside the chain's other orders.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how this particular niche evolves,” he said. “I’m curious to know what happens when it’s not just us and Sweetgreen out there marketing it, but it’s 20 restaurant companies or 50 restaurant companies. Large employers might feel overwhelmed.”

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