Washington University in St. Louis junior Andrew Glantz leverages two big trends with FoodShare, a new app that allows users to donate a meal for every meal purchased at a participating restaurant.
Trend No. 1: Charitable consumerism. Popularized by shoe company Toms and eyeglass manufacturer Warby Parker, the buy-one, give-one business model is booming. Consumers love helping others by buying stuff they want anyway.
Trend No. 2: Food photography. These days, our social media feeds are stuffed with photos of our friends’ truffle fries and kale smoothies.
“You’re already paying for your meal; why not fight hunger too?” said Glantz, who is studying entrepreneurship at Olin Business School. “It’s a win for everyone — the community, the users and the restaurants.”
FoodShare launched Oct. 1 and already has donated more than 800 meals to Operation Food Search, which distributes food to St. Louis’ hungry and provides a range of nutrition programs. The app is a finalist for the Mobileys, a national competition that honors entrepreneurs who make a difference through mobile innovation.
The model is simple: Diners use the app to shoot a photo of their meal at any of 55 plus participating restaurants. FoodShare then makes a donation to cover a meal’s refrigeration, transportation and labor costs. Currently, FoodShare is paying Operation Food Search directly with money raised from its successful Kickstarter campaign. Ultimately, member restaurants will pay FoodShare a monthly fee to cover the meal costs.
“Signing on with FoodShare transforms a restaurant into a social enterprise,” Glantz said. “You show that you are a socially engaged member of the community. And you increase your social media presence. There are a lot of branding and promotional benefits.”
Operation Food Search operations chief Craig Goldford says FoodShare promises to be a boost. The nonprofit receives the bulk of its food from food drives and donations from restaurants and grocery stores. Still, it needs money to distribute meals to some 150,000 hungry St. Louisans every month.
“At Operation Food Search, we are constantly striving to find new ways to raise funds and build awareness,” Goldford said. “FoodShare does both.
“In this field, you need to be creative, and Andrew is certainly that. He’s also a great listener. He really took the time to understand what our needs are.”
FoodShare has come a long way since its inception. Glantz, along with partners Jacob Mohrmann, a senior in Olin Business School, and Dartmouth College student Aidan Folbe, originally launched FoodShare as restaurant recommendation app that rewarded users with a check in the mail. However, the initial model failed to reach their growth targets.
In this first model, the team pledged to donate a portion of its proceeds to help fight hunger in the region. However, the partners soon realized that fully incorporating the social mission into the business model would be more effective.
“Giving back to our community is something that mattered greatly to us,” Glantz said. “We always planned to give a portion of our proceeds to serve the hungry. Now, it would be central to our mission.”
Glantz, a foodie and a philanthropist, realized pivoting to a the buy-one, give-one model would simultaneously make FoodShare more engaging and impactful.
Glantz plans to stay in St. Louis after graduation and hopes to expand FoodShare to other markets. He credits his education at Washington University for teaching him to think big.
“We put aside our egos and accepted what we had wasn’t working,” Glantz said. “One thing I’ve learned in my classes here is not to evaluate sunk costs. All of the money and time we invested in the past wasn’t coming back. We could only think about where we could go from here.
“My businesses classes have given me the real-world lessons that I apply everyday. My ArtSci classes are important too,” Glantz said. “Being an entrepreneur requires creativity as well as business skills, and you never know what will be helpful.
“Right now I’m in a political science course and a children studies course. Do I know how those are going to impact me for FoodShare? No. But they will have added and unknown influences to my thinking and perspective.”