An Upstart Tech Platform Helps Restaurants Give Back

A new mobile app boosts restaurants while aiding the community.

In today’s hyper-competitive environment, Sara Polon feels like restaurant operators are forced to pair up with outside technology partners to provide everything from third-party delivery to office catering services.

“You have to. You have no choice,” says Polon, owner of Soupergirl, a Washington, D.C., soup concept. “It’s an unfortunate necessity that causes a lot of grumbling among the retail community.”

But while some tech providers seem to be out for nothing but a quick buck, others are looking out for operators’ best interests—and the community’s.

Case in point: TwentyTables, a mobile app that connects diners with a list of D.C. restaurants offering $6 lunches and $12 dinners. But the deals weren’t what caught Polon’s eye. From the beginning, the app’s developers sought to do more than just provide a great deal to customers. Rather, for every 20 meals ordered, the company donates five meals to the hungry and food insecure in the D.C. area. “Yeah, it’s an app, but they do good,” Polon says. “That just immediately made them stand out.”

Polon and her mother, Marilyn, launched Soupergirl in 2008 with a mission “to change the world one bowl of soup at a time.” Polon wanted to break down what she called the “industrial food movement” and offer diners healthy and sustainable food options. Soupergirl began with home and office delivery. Now the concept has grown to include two stores in the D.C. area, and its soups are distributed in major grocers like Costco and Wegmans

Polon says customers want more than just good food, reasonable prices, and convenience.

“If you’re not trying to put your values first—identifying your values and communicating them—you’re going to lose,” she says. “Customers are demanding to know about sustainability [and] sources of food. And they’re responding with their dollars.”

She says that’s why the TwentyTables program makes sense for her brand. The app’s users are the kind of people she wants in her restaurants, Polon says—people who want to fight hunger in their community and give back.

SouperGirl couldn’t afford to offer $6 meals for all of its customers—Polon says she’s making a sacrifice to participate in the TwentyTables app. But while it’s possible that some customers come in just for the deal, she says, many others feel more connected to Soupergirl because of its association with the platform. In addition, she says customers who use the app are more likely to return to Soupergirl even when they’re not using the app.

For TwentyTables CEO Alex Cohen, the idea of providing free meals was always a major piece of building the app. “It was just part of the entire vision,” he says. “It was never a question of should we or shouldn’t we.”

But Cohen sees the benefits as multi-faceted, and says the beauty of the business model is that “everyone prospers together.” Restaurants can build dependable traffic with predictable, fixed costs. Diners receive a curated list of great meals at value prices. TwentyTables receives a small fee for every transaction—he says the cut is much smaller than that of third-party delivery services. And each purchase fuels much-needed meals for the hungry and food insecure.

He says he created the app to help consumers who can’t afford to regularly dine out. “Half of all Americans brown-bag their lunches every day,” Cohen says. “In large part, it’s because they can’t afford to find and avail themselves of professionally prepared food. While their friends are going out, while their coworkers are going out, they’re opening up their brown bag.”

But unlike coupon or discount programs, TwentyTables is designed to create long-term relationships between customers and restaurants.

“We are not a discount platform,” he says. “Discounts are transient and indiscriminate, meaning they create artificial relationships between the customer and the restaurant and they disappear.

In addition to the automatic donations, TwentyTables allows users to donate meals directly. Consumers can purchase TwentyTables tickets in packs of five. They redeem one ticket for lunch or two for dinner and can donate as many tickets as they like. Last year, the company donated more than 10,000 meals to places like D.C. Central Kitchen and the Capital Area Food Bank.

The startup vibe of TwentyTables—so far, it’s serving about 3,000 customers and 120 restaurants in D.C.—fits well with the identity of the Well Dressed Burrito, a funky carry-out concept just south of the city’s Dupont Circle. Largely unadvertised, the restaurant can be accessed only through a back alley.

“I think [it] adds a little bit to the ambiance we offer. It’s a little speakeasy, if you will,” general manager Tom Dow says. “We’ve always been a very grassroots kind of operation.”

Dow says he’s constantly approached by third-party developers and vendors pitching ways to improve sales—while also taking a cut of the action along the way, making profit off the business that Dow and others have been doing for years.

But he felt like things were different when TwentyTables approached him. “I actually had customers upset with us because I wasn’t familiar with it,” he says. “TwentyTables seems to be a little more conscientious about giving back.

He’s been happy with the program—even if the low price point cuts deep into his usual margins.

“In the grand scheme of things, I definitely get the feeling it’s trying to do good. And I probably feel a lot better working with them regardless of the business model and where my price point is with them,” he says. “It’s something that’s worth it.”

Read original article here.

Seeds of Change: Why Washington, DC is the Place for Social Entrepreneurs to Thrive

When TwentyTables founder Alex Cohen started his socially-driven community of food, he knew he wouldn’t have to look to Silicon Valley. Alex started his company in his own backyard. Washington, DC is known as a thriving hub for social entrepreneurship and impact-driven businesses, and with good reason. With access to local, state, and federal government, an international populace, and thousands of foundations, NGOs, and nonprofits, Washington, DC is the perfect place to launch a social impact business.

Social impact startups, which attempt to solve large-scale social problems with scalable businesses, often require frank conversations about tough problems in order to get off the ground. Collaboration between key players is crucial to find solutions that will create lasting impact. For TwentyTables, that meant engaging from the beginning with DC organizations focused on hunger and food insecurity. Alex formed early partnerships with Capital Area Food Bank, DC Central Kitchen, and Martha’s Table to donate five meals to the hungry and food insecure for every twenty meals a user purchased on his platform. Because of the perspective those organizations were able to provide, he was able to bake a charitable component into the core of his business model and make sure that everyone’s incentives were aligned. Having access to leading organizations in DC who are immersed in the problem of food insecurity every day meant that he did not have to reinvent the wheel.

When it came time to find socially minded, conscious consumers, DC was once again a key to success. TwentyTables’ first customer for its business-to-business “employee lunch as a benefit” option was the RFK Center for Human Rights. There is no other city in the world where your door-to-door outreach could lead to a conversation about food insecurity with Kerry Kennedy and Michael Schreiber. Having access to foundations, nonprofits, and NGOs focused on social problems is vital for entrepreneurs trying to create lasting change. And with one nonprofit for every 86 residents, DC is sure to connect social entrepreneurs with similarly missioned nonprofits. That’s without even considering DC’s access to the largest customer in the world — the U.S. government.

The federal government awards over $105 billion in government contracts to small businesses every year. That makes working with the government a key strategy for many startups hoping to grow and scale. But just like any other customer, sales to the U.S. government require an understanding of pain points, networking with decision makers, and relationships built on clear communication and trust. Startups headquartered in DC are able to foster conversations with government early on in their development, and can create a product with government pain points in mind.

Many programs in the DC region help to enable those early conversations. Early-stage accelerators in DC like the Halcyon House and Seed Spot focus specifically on social impact businesses like TwentyTables and the challenges they face. They are able to introduce founders to key stakeholders in the social impact landscape. These accelerators serve as catalysts for startup growth, as well as thought-leaders who can identify startup trends.

“Washington, D.C. is a fantastic place for social entrepreneurs,” said Halcyon Incubator Program Director, Mike Malloy. “As part of our Social Enterprise Ecosystem Report, we found that the DC ecosystem is the third best for social enterprise, just behind Boston and San Francisco. DC benefits in particular from a robust repository of talent, which we see every day at the Halcyon Incubator.”

Read original article here.

Liam O'Toole
Exclusive: DC Restaurant Platform TwentyTables Raising Millions to Add New Markets

A young D.C. startup on the heels of a win at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas, wants to capitalize on that traction.

District-based TwentyTables Inc., whose mobile and web platform gives people access to low-cost meals from local restaurants, is now looking to move beyond Greater Washington. That starts with a mid-six-figures friends and family extender round, “because of all the attention we’re getting out of South by Southwest, we don’t want to just jump at the first opportunities that come, because more than one is materializing,” said TwentyTables founder and CEO Alex Cohen.

That funding would solidify the company’s operations in the D.C. area, Cohen said. It’s a precursor to a Series A round — between $3 million and $5 million — which, he said, would enable the business to start tapping into new expansion markets.

TwentyTables connects diners with area eateries and food trucks by selling $6 tickets for lunch (one ticket) and dinner (two tickets). It’s a two-sided marketplace, targeting both the 52 percent of consumers who bring bagged lunch to work daily, and restaurants looking to reach new customers and garner repeat business. There’s no fee for restaurants to participate. As its name indicates, TwentyTables also donates five meals for every 20 meals sold through tickets to local nonprofit partners: Capital Area Food Bank, D.C. Central Kitchen and Martha’s Table.

The TwentyTables footprint covers the District proper and surrounding areas like Arlington, Alexandria and Silver Spring — pockets with a focused supply of consumers and vendors. But “at scale, it won’t just be city propers, it will be extended suburban areas as well,” Cohen said.

Following SXSW, where TwentyTables took home the "Best Bootstrap" prize at a startup pitch competition, the company is seeing vendors registering themselves for the platform, Cohen said — about a dozen so far. “That said, outside of that organic self-initiated growth, we have to be strategic with our focus and efforts, so right now we’re focusing on [the D.C. area] exclusively. In four to six months, we’ll start our initial outreach efforts to neighboring metropolitan areas.” The plan is to target young, socially minded cities with strong restaurant and food truck cultures, Cohen said. Baltimore, Philadelphia, Charlotte, North Carolina, Denver, Portland, Oregon, and Austin are on the list.

Cohen founded TwentyTables in March 2017, followed by six months of research and development funded by an initial $300,000 raised. The company, bootstrapped since then, grew from five restaurants on the platform in January 2018 to more than 100 now, from homegrown soup company Soupergirl to D.C. craft beer bar Meridian Pint to the Peruvian Brothers food truck.

TwentyTables makes a modest margin on ticket purchases, with other revenue streams to supplement ticket revenue, Cohen said, though he declined to share specifics or disclose annual revenue. The team comprises about 15 independent contractors.

The model also includes a B2B program, in which companies can provide employees meals as a benefit. Cohen said he also sees a business opportunity in tourism, for families traveling to the region looking to eat affordably during their visit, and through local government, to distribute meal tickets to people in need.

The space also includes players like internet subscription service MealPal, Bethesda restaurant discount app Spotluck and daily deals sites like Groupon. And in addition to competition, other challenges are ahead. Among them: maintaining an alignment with charitable component of the business, “even though scale itself will try to pull that away,” Cohen said. “A company like ours faces enough challenges without having to maintain a social mission, but that’s our backbone, that’s our North Star, and that’s going to be leading us the entire way.”

Read original article here.

Liam O'Toole
Level Up

While the new scenario makes the startup market more difficult and competitive, it also makes the eventual success of companies more feasible.

SXSW Pitch, the festival's startup competition, got tougher. But it also got better. There was a time when startup development was similar to the Brazilian Cinema Novo movement: an idea in the head and a PowerPoint in hand.

At that time, the idea was the main one. Revenue model, scalability, property protection, social responsibility were all in the background.

But after so many cases of companies that never became profitable, or were ostensibly copied, or had ethical problems, access to finance and public engagement became more difficult. And you can see that in the startups that competed in this year's SXSW Pitch.

The level is too high. Beyond well-made apps and cute names, companies have mapped out their strategies for growing, getting and retaining users. They have modular revenue models and break even forecasting. They focus on playing a positive role in society and being transparent about privacy policies.

Take the words of Chris Valentine, producer of the event, about one of the competition's highlights, Twenty Tables: “They did a great job highlighting the importance of providing at least privileged access to healthy meals at a fixed cost. Startups with social benefits show how impactful technology can be to make a difference, ”he said during the event.

In the conversation with the 50 best entrepreneurs at the end of the event, you can feel their concern not to leave any tips. While this new scenario makes the startup market more difficult and competitive, it also makes their eventual success more feasible.

Check out all the companies that participated in the SXSW Pitch and the winners of each category here.

Read original article here (in Portuguese).

Liam O'Toole
This Tech Startup Provides Affordable Lunch While Donating Meals to Those in Need

TwentyTables is providing affordable meals to the DC community, while also giving back to their city. When founder and CEO, Alex Cohen, worked downtown, he struggled to find affordable lunch options. He set out to find a solution to this problem, while also giving back to his community.

We had a chance to speak with Alex about how TwentyTables was first started, how it works and what’s next for this startup.

How did you first come up with the idea for TwentyTables? What problem were you trying to solve?

I worked in downtown DC for the last 15 years, and struggled to find an affordable lunch. My choices were brown bagging, hunting for a Groupon or other discount, or paying $12-17 per meal. I didn't like any of those options! Brown bagging took extra time and effort, and led to a lot of food waste and forgotten lunches. Discounts were temporary and not always relevant, and $17 is too much to pay for lunch! I needed a predictable and affordable option that let me choose delicious foods and stay within my budget.

Due to my work with the healthcare industry, I knew that a Group Purchasing Organization model could bring the price down for consumers by aggregating their buying power. I negotiated $6 flat fee lunches with over 100 DC restaurants and food trucks, while bringing the restaurants profitable new business at no charge. But DC is my home, and affordable lunches for professionals was only one part of the problem.

We needed to also feed the community, including those who can't afford to buy their own meals. So for every 20 meals we serve, we donate five to the hungry and food-insecure through our charity partners. We call this our ‘Community of Food’; we make restaurant quality food affordable to the 50 percent of budget conscious people who currently brown bag their lunch, help restaurants drive new business and reduce food waste, and help feed the hungry in our city.

Tell us a little about how TwentyTables works and the technology behind it.

TwentyTables’ mobile apps allow consumers or employers to buy five-packs of tickets. Lunch meals from over 100 DC restaurants and food trucks are one ticket, and dinner meals are two tickets. Customers pick from over 150 lunch options each day, choose the time, and pick it up. They can even coordinate with friends and coworkers inside the app about when and where to eat.

Restaurants use the same app to sign-up and supply three to five meals that they want to sell that day (including at least one vegetarian option). Restaurants can update availability in real time, turning off an option if they run out, or turning on if they have extra inventory or specials (like happy hour, daily specials, or flash sales). Most restaurants and food trucks turn on from 11-3 Monday through Friday, then again for dinner around 5 pm.

For employers looking to recruit and retain top talent, they can buy their employees meal tickets for just $30 a week and have five meals donated per employee each month. This is about the same price as “free lunch Friday” catering or a team happy hour, but the employee gets lunch where they want, when they want every day.

A company of just 100 employees donates 6,000 meals a year, supports local DC businesses, reduces food waste, saves their employees money, and supports wellness. This is a turnkey benefit and Corporate Social Responsibility program all in one.

What is TwentyTables’ mission?

Our mission is to create a Communtiy of Food that ends hunger in all forms in DC and beyond.

What is next for TwentyTables?

In 2019, TwentyTables intends to deepen its relationships at home, and start exploring and branching out to strategic new markets. We’re actively engaging new partners to help with that expansion, and we’re excited about what’s ahead!

Read original article here.

Liam O'Toole
Here’s what’s happening at SXSW 2019 when it comes to #dctech

SXSW 2019 kicked off on March 8, with the tech, media, film and music industries converging on Austin, Texas. The big event will be going until March 17, but so much has already transpired over the weekend. And plenty of D.C. folks are getting involved.

Here’s a roundup of some happenings at the conference:

TwentyTables named Best Bootstrap company.

As DC previously reported, TwentyTables was upgraded to a finalist in the 2019 SXSW pitch competition after a company dropped out, opening up a spot for the meal marketplace startup. The competition took place on March 9 and 10 and after it was all said and done, TwentyTables took home $1,000 and the award for Best Bootstrap company, meaning the company that has done the most with the least.

“Standing up at SXSW Pitch and presenting alongside some of the most promising, most inspirational, most innovative startups in the world brings in to focus the path TwentyTables traveled to get us where we are, and the wonderful challenge in front of us,” TwentyTables founder and CEO Alexander Cohen told “Nothing says resourcefulness, creativity and capital efficiency more than Best Bootstrap. We will climb, claw and kick our way to the top, and won’t stop until TwentyTables is the force it is destined to be.”

Read original article here.

Liam O'Toole
Why Mobile Order-Ahead Is A Must-Have Ingredient For QSRs

To help serve diners who crave convenience, restaurants and solution providers have started to test and grow their mobile ordering services. The aim is to allow diners to place their orders – and even pay – before they ever set foot in a restaurant. And the concept is not unfamiliar to customers who, according to recent data, are already receptive to mobile technology.

The PYMNTS Mobile Order-Ahead Tracker found that 92 percent of customers enjoy using apps to order from a quick-service restaurant (QSR). And, while only 27 percent of QSR managers have a positive view of ordering and paying through a mobile app, solution providers are seeking to tackle their restaurant pain points.

From third-party apps like TwentyTables to the mobile technology of QSR chains such as Starbucks, technology is connecting restaurants with diners ready to place orders. These are some of the ways that mobile order-ahead technology connects diners with restaurants – and how these establishments stand to benefit from mobile order-ahead integrations.

The share of Starbucks’ U.S. mobile order sales in 2018 was 12 percent. In fact, Starbucks touted its increased digital sales, among other factors, as a growth driver during its first-quarter earnings report on Jan. 24. The company also noted that enrollment in its loyalty rewards program saw a year-over-year increase of 14 percent to arrive at 16.3 million. Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said in a conference call at the time, “this result was driven by leveraging our increased digital reach, as well as a more seamless customer onboarding experience, greater mobile order and pay adoption and enhanced personalization features. Between digitally registered and active [rewards] customers, we are now approaching 30 million digital connections in the U.S.”

Nearly all – 92 percent – of customers view placing a QSR order via mobile app positively. And not all apps are run by quick-service restaurants (QSRs) or third-party delivery aggregators. Feedback, a Canadian app, seeks to target food waste by offering deals during certain times at certain restaurants through a mobile order-ahead experience. To use the service, customers access a list of nearby restaurants through the app, and can tap on a specific restaurant to see which meals are available. In a previous PYMNTS interview, Feedback co-founder Josh Walters compared the user experience to Uber Eats or Grubhub in that consumers can create an order and check out in the app. The app then provides a receipt that consumers can present to a cashier when picking up their orders.

Almost three in 10 — or 27 percent — of QSR managers view ordering and paying through a QSR app as positive. But solution providers are tackling restaurants’ pain points to help make their services more palpable: SpeedETab and Epson America, for instance, teamed up to make an offering that lets QSRs print mobile order receipts to help staff better prepare for orders. In other cases, apps are seeking to help restaurants bring in more customers to eat in the dining room. TwentyTables Founder and CEO Alex Cohen noted in a previous PYMNTS interview that restaurants prefer his mobile order-ahead platform, which offers dine-in orders, because it can draw people in to purchase add-ons. In addition, the service can help generate foot traffic. “We are bringing people to your doorstep,” Cohen said. (Customers can also pick up orders at a restaurant with the app.) Through his service, customers pay a fixed price for meals ahead of time by purchasing tickets.

The average increase in check size for digital orders is 20 percent. And some new mobile order-ahead technologies – like the Jetson app – are tapping into voice ordering technology. The app also guides consumers through each step of the ordering process. If a customer orders from Chipotle, for instance, the app will walk the customer through each step to build a burrito or bowl by allowing them to choose from a variety of choices. At the same time, Jetson Founder and CEO Peter Peng designed the platform to provide some flexibility around ordering by allowing customers to order “Brussel sprouts” instead of, say, “charred Brussel sprouts with chili lime oil.”

And 50 percent of Pizza Hut’s 2018 U.S. sales were placed through QuikOrder. In fact, Yum! Brands announced in December that it would acquire QuikOrder, an online ordering software and service provider for the restaurant industry. Terms of the deal were not disclosed at the time of the announcement. By purchasing QuikOrder’s online ordering capabilities, the pizza chain said it would be able to improve its ability to deliver a personalized online ordering experience and speed up digital innovation across its over 6,000 U.S. restaurants. QuikOrder, which launched in 1997, focuses on developing and maintaining internet ordering systems that are used across the quick service restaurant (QSR) industry.

From QSRs like Pizza Hut to solution providers like QuikOrder, new technology is providing existing diners with more convenience and choice when it comes to ordering food and beverages at their favorite restaurants. And going forward, these options can not only help bring in new customers as well.

Read original article here.

Liam O'Toole
Tapping Into Mobile Order-Ahead With Fixed-Price Menus

While working in Washington, D.C, TwentyTables Founder and CEO Alex Cohen thought he had three options for an affordable lunch: He could pack a brown bag, scour the web for discounts or pay full price for a meal. His wife, who also worked in the city, faced a similar problem, as did his colleagues. “Universally, we all had problems finding a consistently priced, affordable meal as a substitute for a brown bag lunch,” Cohen told PYMNTS in an interview.

To provide an alternative to full-priced restaurant meals, Cohen started the TwentyTables mobile marketplace to connect restaurants and diners looking for affordable lunches. Consumers can buy tickets for a fixed cost of $6. One ticket is redeemable for lunch, while two tickets are redeemable for dinner. “The consumers are getting the benefit of negotiated meal prices in advance by virtue of the ticket system,” Cohen noted.

With the app, a diner can then place an order, and the restaurant can approve or reject the order based on its current capacity. If the order is approved, the consumer can show up at a predetermined time to pick it up with the mobile order-ahead model. And because consumers always order in advance, restaurants have time to prepare the meals and serve a range of diners.

The Market

The company’s target market is consumers who pack a brown bag for lunch. The app also seeks to serve college students who might run out money at the end of their meal plans. Cohen also said that tourists traveling to Washington, D.C. who have to go through the expense of purchasing airfare, hotels and cars could buy books of tickets, too. Overall, the company’s market could encompass any individuals who are cost-conscious.

With the platform, diners can order from restaurants ranging from a hoagie shop to a Korean barbeque restaurant and an Ethiopian restaurant. “It’s a broad, diverse array of food, spanning both culture and geography,” Cohen said. He also has a pizza chain on the platform, which has locations in both Washington, D.C. and Charlotte, N.C. The trick to scaling the service, according to Cohen, is to create relationships with institutions that have presence in more than one geography. Then, as the company scales, it can add the company’s other locations.

Cohen noted that restaurants like the platform, which also offers dine-in orders, because it can draw people into the restaurant to purchase add-ons. The service can also help generate foot traffic. “We are bringing people to your doorstep,” Cohen said. The restaurants, too, have autonomy, as they can swap meals in and out, turn the orders on or off and accept or reject orders in real time.

Apps With a Mission

Beyond the app’s mobile order-ahead functionality, it also has a focus on food insecurity. (According to Feeding America, food insecurity is “a household’s inability to provide enough food for every person to live an active, healthy life.”) Cohen said that particular challenge arises, in large part, because of a lack of predictability: Consumers don’t know where their next affordable meal is coming from. The app is designed to create predictability and security for people who are consistently priced out of the marketplace. The app also features a charity component: For every 20 meals served through the platform, TwentyTables donates five meals through its partners.

Beyond TwentyTables, other restaurant mobile order-ahead platforms with a social or environmental focus are connecting diners with restaurants. Canada’s Feedback app, for instance, lets restaurants offer time-sensitive deals to diners to help tackle the challenge of food waste. Restaurants on the platform offer products ranging from cold-pressed juices to pizza and sushi and, like TwentyTables, diners can order food ahead for pickup.

From Feedback to TwentyTables, mobile order-ahead apps are showing that marketplaces can connect diners and restaurants at the local level, while accomplishing missions ranging from food waste to food insecurity.

Read original article here.

Liam O'Toole
TwentyTables is partnering with a giant food distribution company

Washington, D.C.-based TwentyTables is partnering with Richmond, Va.-based Performance Food Group, a $17.45 billion national food product distributor.

This partnership will allow TwentyTables participating restaurants and food trucks the opportunity to access Performance Food Group goods and services as a preferred vendor.

“Everyone benefits in this relationship, and in our community of food,” TwentyTables founder and CEO Alex Cohen told

The TwentyTables app allows users to connect with $6 lunch and $12 dinner options from local restaurants. This partnership is another big win for the TwentyTables team this month after taking home first place at 2018 Startup Week DC pitch competition, which came with a load of prizes.

“The conversation about social responsibility is one that we should all take seriously. When the opportunity to align our interests with an award-winning startup came up,” Performance Food Group’s Dennis Barry said in a statement, “we felt we had to do it.”

Read original article here.

Liam O'Toole
TwentyTables food-truck festival raises 500 meals for Capital Area Food Bank

The startup's inaugural food drive brought out hundreds to help end hunger in Washington, D.C.

Despite the rain, TwentyTables partnered with the Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB) on Sept. 9 to host a food truck festival and community day at the CAFB headquarters. The inaugural food drive was put together to raise food for the community and bring awareness to TwentyTables’ mission to end hunger in Washington, D.C.

TwentyTables launched an app in January that connects customers with $6 lunch and $12 dinner options from local restaurants, DC reported last December. The company committed to donating five meals to charity for every 20 meals ordered on the app. Partnering charities include Capital Area Food Bank, Martha’s Table and DC Central Kitchen.

To keep pushing the giving program forward, customers used the app during the event to purchase meals, and each one was matched by RFK Human Rights and donated to CAFB. TwentyTables CEO Alexander Cohen told DC that roughly 500 meals were purchased; RFK Human Rights donated 500 meals to CAFB to match that.

The food trucks in attendance included Reggae Flava, Lil Mac, QuiQui and more.

The event ran from 2–6 p.m. and had community games such as life sized Jenga, a DJ and face painting. To accommodate the bad weather, tents were set up for outside activities and space was set up inside of CAFB for other activities.

Read original article here.

Liam O'Toole
First-of-its-Kind Mobile App Partners to Help End Hunger

Time and again, businesses—big and small—showcase how they’re using technology for social good. As seen at the Chamber Foundation’s Digital Empowers Forum, innovative technologies are making a positive impact locally and globally – from enhancing early childhood education within U.S. classrooms to breaking down systemic barriers for gender equality around the world.

Another example of leveraging technology for good can be seen in a local mobile app TwentyTables. TwentyTables is a first-of-its-kind, socially-conscious, fixed-cost, meal marketplace. What does that mean? Every lunch purchased through their app and supplied by one of their restaurant partners is … $6. Always.

However, TwentyTables does not only provide customers convenient, delicious fixed-cost meals. We are equally committed to tackling local, national, and global food insecurity and hunger. That’s why for every 20 meals ordered, we donate five meals to one of our charity partners. Washington, D.C. consumers and businesses can choose to donate meals to Capital Area Food Bank, DC Central Kitchen, and Martha’s Table. As the company expands to new markets, donations generated through meals served in those cities will help food charities local to that community.

In addition to helping the hungry and food insecure in Washington D.C. and beyond, TwentyTables is committed to providing corporate America and its workforce a wholesome, delicious, AND affordable lunch.

Now, through TwentyTables, consumers and employers have access to a network of delicious and convenient restaurant-prepared meals, for a price comparable to meals prepared-at-home. But perhaps more importantly, it means that per SHRM (Society for Human Resources Management), the 52% of workers that bring lunch from home now have a viable, economical, and sustainable alternative to brown-bagging it. TwentyTables is a luxury of convenience for everyone who wants to stop packing lunch, but at a budget-friendly price. And for businesses, offering TwentyTables’ service as an employee benefit means that for just $120/month, employers can provide an employee a daily “free lunch” benefit.

It’s a win for everyone involved—affordable meals for consumers; increased business for restaurants; and helping feed the hungry. Everyone prospers together in our Community of Food.

TwentyTables’ app went live on iPhone and Android in Washington D.C. earlier this year. Currently over 75 restaurants and food trucks are registered, and TwentyTables is expanding rapidly throughout the city and plans to grow organically throughout the DC Metro area.

TwentyTables was recently nominated by the Capital Area Food Bank as one of Washington D.C.’s most innovative tech companies, and finished 2nd out of 64 companies in DC Inno’s Tech Madness competition.

If you are interested in learning more about partnership opportunities, please visit or contact Jim Ross at [email protected].

Read original article here.

Liam O'Toole
How TwentyTables Helps You Give Back While Eating Well

TwentyTables believes that giving back should be just as easy and routine as buying a meal. So that’s exactly what they built.

Founded in March 2017, TwentyTables is a fixed cost, food marketplace platform that lets hungry users purchase lunches for $6 and dinners for $12. Patrons can choose from more than 50 local D.C. restaurants and food trucks through the app.  So far, the platform has partnered with restaurants like District BarbecueBrookland Pint and Nino’s Bakery.

“By being a fixed cost meal platform, the cost is predictable for everyone involved,” said TwentyTables Founders Alex Cohen. “Restaurants know exactly how much they’re getting paid and consumers know exactly how much they’re spending.”

Here’s the catch — they don’t deliver. Customers have to pick up their food or dine in after purchasing through the app. Cohen said that companies like Seamless and UberEats drive up the costs of food, which conflicts with TwentyTables’ model.

“Some people can afford a $17 sandwich when it really costs $10, but most folks can’t,” said Cohen.

For every 20 meals purchased through TwentyTables, five meals are donated to local D.C. food banks — Capital Area Food Bank, D.C. Central Kitchen and Martha Tables. TwentyTables’ ticket-based system also allows users to donate meals to other users. Each ticket costs $6 — one ticket accounts for a lunch purchase and two tickets equal a dinner purchase.

According to a report by Capital Area Food Bank, at least 14 percent of D.C. residents are food insecure. TwentyTables makes quarterly donations to the food banks and the company’s team members also volunteer with the organizations.

“We wanted these three organizations not only because they’re the most reputable in D.C., but because they each sit at levels of the giving hierarchy,” Cohen said.

Capital Area Food Bank handles a large volume of food and serves as a distributor to smaller food banks in D.C. like D.C. Central Kitchen. Martha’s Kitchen and D.C. Kitchen prepare food and serve it to the needy.

The TwentyTables app ranks users by the amount they’ve helped donate to the food banks.

“We show individual consumers how many meals they’ve helped us contribute,” said Cohen. “We also rank them on a no-name basis relative to their friends in the ecosystem and to the TwentyTables whole community.”

TwentyTables plans to expand to other D.C. neighborhoods, Richmond and Baltimore throughout 2018 and 2019, with donations going to local food banks in those respective regions.

“All of our vendor partners are so engaged that whatever challenge we face, our partners are willing to work with us to make sure that Twenty Tables succeeds,” said Cohen.

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Hudson Tang
Meal Deal Service Twenty Tables Strives to Stoke Charitable Giving Across D.C.

Never mind free lunches: Twenty Tables founder and CEO Alex Cohen is devoting all his efforts to building charitable giving into locals’ everyday dining routine.

Rather than looking for a handout, Cohen is harnessing this area’s insatiable appetite for exclusive meal deals (his approach: getting restaurants to create $6 lunches and $12 dinners) in order to generate a steady source of revenue for local groups that work to alleviate hunger. A former attorney who says he spent 13 years handling health care issues at an international law firm, Cohen tells Eater the vision for Twenty Tables — which is currently competing against other tech companies in a March Madness-style bracket challenge — was partially “inspired by what José Andrés is doing.”

Andrés was recently named humanitarian of the year by the James Beard Foundation for all the support he’s provided to storm-ravaged Puerto Rico, and all the meals he and his nonprofit, World Central Kitchen, have supplied around the globe.

Cohen’s app works like this: users sign up and are instantly presented with the network of participating restaurants and food trucks that accept Twenty Tables’ proprietary meal tickets ($6 apiece). Lunch offerings, which can range from scaled-down versions of an existing dish to custom items vendors offer specifically to Twenty Tables customers, are priced at 1 ticket, while dinner orders are capped at two tickets (so, $12). There is a 15-minute lead time required for each order — so the food should, theoretically, be waiting for each customer as soon as they reach the vendor — and only same-day purchases are accepted.

Once a user places 20 orders, the company makes a donation to a charity partner — Twenty Tables is currently working with Capital Area Food BankDC Central Kitchen, and Martha’s Table — equivalent to five free meals. Users can also elect to donate additional charity meals at will. The app also promotes competition by showing users how they rank against friends and the Twenty Tables community in general regarding orders placed/charitable meals donated.

“All you do is participate and you are helping,” Cohen says. He adds that Twenty Tables orders are a floor not a ceiling, citing that it’s not uncommon for customers to purchase additional items — a beer while waiting, or perhaps a dessert to take home — when they go to collect their food.

Local chain Naan & Beyond was the first restaurant to come on board in late 2017. Cohen says Twenty Tables has added dozens more since then, including food trucks El Fuego and Peruvian Brothers; casual eateries Bub and Pop’s and Soupergirl; and neighborhood restaurants Meridian Pint and Brookland Pint.

The initial focus is on developing the service area around the existing base in the Golden Triangle/Dupont Circle. Cohen says growth opportunities could extend the reach into Chinatown next. From there, he could see branching out to Georgetown or Cleveland Park. If the momentum keeps building, Cohen tells Eater he’s game to connect users with cheap eats from Baltimore to Richmond.

“There could be a whole corridor of $6 lunches,” he says.

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Hudson Tang
This new app finds meal deals and gives back

D.C.–based Twenty Tables is launching an app next month that connects customers with $6 lunches and $12 dinners at dozens of local food trucks, quick service and full service restaurants. After ordering 20 meals, Twenty Tables donates five meals to the Capital Area Food Bank, Martha’s Tableand DC Central Kitchen.

“Getting excited about $6 lunch is real, but what’s really exciting is the prospect of a continuous stream of charitable giving,” Twenty Tables founder and CEO Alexander Cohen told DC. “It creates a sense of community.”

For $6 you’ll be able to get a medium bowl of soup and a bread roll at Soupergirl, and add a salad for a $12 dinner. Other restaurants include food truck Project Milanesa and Bub and Pop’s. Participating restaurants pick three dishes to include for each meal deal.

“We are giving a significant discount,” Soupergirl founder Sarah Polon told DC. “What would normally cost $8 now costs $6. We love the fact that with every purchase we help a local charity.”

Maria Booker is the head of events for the Capital Area Food Bank, which provides over a half million area residents with their food needs annually.

“We’re testing out a few donation platforms, and this one stood out because it connects to local restaurants and gives back means,” Booker said. “In the end, the user is able to embed giving into their daily life.”

Cohen, a former healthcare attorney who decided to change careers last year, now works with a team of 15 full and part-time employees. He said he and his team want to expand to other cities once the D.C. model is perfected.

“We want to build corridors so consumers can go to Richmond or Baltimore and still find a $6 lunch in Philly,” he said.

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Hudson Tang