The Business of Giving Back

December 19, 2022

Welcome to Dana Delivers by Aprio podcasts, the podcast that helps restaurant owners and operators learn from industry experts about trends and opportunities. On every episode, Dana Zukofsky, the leader of Aprio’s restaurant advisory team, explores a topic impacting our industry in a candid conversation. And now, let’s hear what Dana is serving up on this episode.

Well, thank you, everyone, for joining us today. As our guest, we have Andrew Glantz, who’s the founder and CEO of GiftAMeal. Thanks, Andrew, for joining us.

Yeah, thanks for having me, Dana. I really appreciate it. 

Of course. So, usually, I start the podcast, any of our listeners know, with the first time I met someone. Although Andrew and I have not yet met in person, he did see that I’m speaking at the Restaurant Finance Conference, reached out to meet and talk and mentioned some of my favorite people that he’s going to be working with. And usually when people name drop, I always am like, ‘Oh, whatever.’ But when you mention certain names, I get really excited. So anyone out there working with GiftAMeal already, I’m excited for you, and whoever is not, Andrew, why don’t you kick it off and tell us a little bit about what GiftAMeal is?

Absolutely. So I founded GiftAMeal as kind of that blend of marketing and giving back. I saw that with restaurants, there were a lot of financial incentives like coupons and discounts and things like that. But there wasn’t a lot out there that was really building an emotional connection between the customer and the restaurant. And I really wanted to find a way to involve the guests in a giveback experience that makes them feel that sense of connection to the restaurant and their community as a whole. And so the basic way the GiftAMeal program works is that the guest simply takes a photo of their food or drink at the restaurant, or at home of their takeout or delivery order, and when they do that, we make a donation to a local food bank to help give a meal to someone in need in that restaurant community. And so the photo is taken for free by the customer either through the GiftAMeal mobile app, which is free, or it can be by scanning a QR code and taking a photo in a web browser in Chrome or Safari without having to download a mobile app for posting it through GiftAMeal, one meal. And then the guests can share on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. And we give an extra meal for each platform they share on. It’s owned by the restaurant and free for the customer.

That’s unbelievable. And we know that people like to take a picture of their food anyway. So if you’re doing it already, and now you could help out someone who needs it, why not? And Andrew, what was your background? Tell me your background and where this stems from, because just kind of relating it to me, I grew up in a family where we were very fortunate. But my mother made it very clear to us that there were people who are food insecure. We always did have to go to different events, and we did turkey packs for Thanksgiving, and even now I’m super involved in City Harvest because of that. Where did your passion for this come from?

Similarly to you, it’s just the way that I was raised. As early as I can remember, when I was five years old, I was volunteering alongside my parents, and they really taught me never to take anything for granted and to really not just focus on giving back, but treat each person with dignity and respect and recognize the challenges that people are going through are sometimes circumstantial and out of their control. And making sure that everybody has access to opportunities is something that I’ve been really passionate about. So growing up, I did a lot of volunteering at different food banks and volunteering helping tutor underprivileged children. And I got involved in a kind of kids for kids nonprofit that I was vice president for four years when I was in high school.

Wow, that’s great.

Yeah, and we raised about $350,000 for kids in need in my community across education, hunger, and mobility. And so I saw the impact that could be made, and then applying that impact. So giving back was something important. And then I went to college at Washington University in St. Louis, and was an owner of a nonprofit storefront promoting reuse and sustainability on campus for a couple of years. And then I had an internship at a venture capital firm where the managing partner exposed me to the idea of a profit with a purpose business model and how profit and purpose can be consistent goals. And so it took my passion of giving back and then also looking at something that could be scalable and grow to make a really large impact and be something that can help multiple stakeholders. And I had the very original idea for GiftAMeal when I was in college after that internship and yeah, so I started off just like a local program. I didn’t have a car and I was going up and down the street in this node, a mom and pop restaurant, to get some early traction and have them test it out. I grew this out in the St. Louis market and graduated. And then I went full time on GiftAMeal, and raised some funding from investors, I could grow out the team. And then we started to expand nationally. And now we have over 500 partner restaurants in 27 states all across the country. Oh, and we’ve given over a million meals to those in need so far. We hit that milestone a couple months ago.

And a million meals, that’s a lot of meals. And again, having been involved with different food charities over the years, we know that these charities where you’re giving the money to, they really make the dollar go far. But someone listening, I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t want to help and give back. But here someone is, a single unit operator, they have one restaurant. They’re listening to this and saying, ‘What’s the catch?’ Explain exactly how the GiftaMeal, like if you could put some dollars and cents to it to make the listener, who is the restaurateur, understand the real value here for them as the owner, but also how they’re going to give back to the community.

Absolutely. And we want to make sure this is not just a meaningful social impact for their community, but it’s also a meaningful business impact in terms of the marketing return on investment for the restaurant, whether it’s an independent operator, a franchisee, or a corporate chain. And for the independent operator, they’re paying $79 a month on our standard plan to be on GiftAMeal. For a chain, we discount that price down to as low as $34 a month per location as a flat monthly rate. So it’s really predictable from a budgeting standpoint. In terms of what they get out of it, customers sharing out photos on social media is great because it’s them being advocates for the restaurant. There’s no ratings or reviews, it’s strictly positive. 

But in addition to that, we’ve seen that the guests that are using GiftAMeal are having an uplifting experience, or feeling that sense of emotional connection and satisfaction with the brand, to the point that, on average, GiftAMeal customers are returning to that restaurant 39% more frequently. They’re spending 20% more per visit and tipping 32% more on average. So yeah, increase in check size, tip size, visit frequency, and customers are more satisfied and promoting the restaurant on social media – a lot of good things that can come out of this, in addition to a really meaningful social impact that can help those in need in a restaurant community.

Right, and one of the other things I thought was pretty cool is you’re giving back to the community where the restaurants are. So even though you’re based in St. Louis, all of the funds that you collect, and then the meals you distribute, are being given back to the local areas where the people are from, not where you’re based.

Yes, exactly. So for instance, one of our partners is Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken, and they cover the cost at the corporate level from their ad funds for all 130 locations, franchisees across the country.

Hold on a second. Listen, franchisors, we have that ad fund. This could be a really great opportunity.

That is true, that is true. Like we have some where the franchisors pay for the franchisees, we have some where it’s like a preferred vendor agreement and they introduce us to the franchisees and franchisees pay for it if they don’t have an ad fund. And some franchisees just come to us themselves. But yeah, I mean, we’ve seen a lot of success, where for those Lee’s Chicken locations, we’re donating to local food banks all over the country. So instead of having to have 130 different community engagement programs with locations, with the click of a button with signing up for GiftAMeal, they have something that’s hyper local to each location in terms of that social impact and a local marketing impact. It’s meaningful to customers, staff and franchisees, and they’re able to have it be a consistent message across the entirety of the brand. And so it’s good from that overall branding perspective, and then also for each individual location.

I mean, it’s really just unbelievable. And again, somebody who’s maybe not as familiar with how some of the giveback programs work. Someone says, ‘Oh, $79.’ Well, that means the most imprints I’m going to have is 20 because they think a meal costs $4. You and I, having been involved, know that that’s not the case. You want to talk a little bit about how much money a meal really costs when you work? 

Yeah, that’s a great point. So when we say we’re providing a meal, it’s not the restaurant providing their food. They don’t need to deal with any food logistics or anything like that. It’s donating money to the food banks. The food banks get food donated to them by supermarkets, food distributors, community food drives, and the food gets stored up in their big distribution facilities. And then we’re covering their costs of getting that food from these big facilities to the hundreds of neighborhood pantries in their areas where there’s a need to access it. And so when they’re distributing those healthy groceries in bulk, they’re able to get the cost down per meal. So one meal is 1.2 pounds of groceries being distributed to a pantry and we’re covering that cost of getting the trucking, the labor, and refrigeration to get it there. And so on average, when they distribute food in bulk, a food bank approximately can provide four meals per dollar donated. So 25 cents per meal and they usually have this on the donate page of their website, whether they say we can provide 10 meals for every dollar donated, or three meals for every dollar donated, or four meals or five meals. On average, it’s about four meals per dollar for a food bank. And so that’s the donation we’re making them using the exact same messaging for transparency and consistency.

Right, because a lot of these food banks really are just logistics companies doing good for people.

And it’s all about just getting the food where people can access it. If somebody lives in a food desert, and they don’t have access to healthy, consistent food, they might just have a convenience store or McDonald’s in that neighborhood, or the shitty grocery store might not have hours open when they’re working multiple jobs to be able to access that food at a food pantry near them. It’s something that can make a really, really big impact for them and their kids. 

And when we’re looking at the impact that we’re looking at solving, a lot of people think that it’s just the people you see on the street that are the homeless, but food insecurity is so much bigger than that. If you’re looking across America, it’s nearly one in six kids that face food insecurity, meaning they don’t know where they’re going to find their next meal. And if somebody has something happen on the health side, and they have a really big health bill, that can push them over the edge. I was speaking with one of the people at the food bank, the community members at a food bank that I was volunteering at, and she mentioned about how there was a fire at her house. And then that caused her to have to be crashing on the couch with friends and taking care of her 15 year old daughter and going to the food pantries for support. There’s a lot of restaurant employees that I’ve talked to that have faced some food insecurity at different points in their life, or have friends that face that as well. And so, it’s something that I really look at is, hunger can happen to anybody. And so we all kind of have that obligation to be there for each other, just as we would want somebody to be there for us if we were going through something.

Right, and just a cross promotion here to an earlier podcast and charity that I’m a very big fan of. If you are a restaurant worker listening and you do have an issue, you can also reach out to Giving Kitchen because they too are very involved in helping out the restaurant worker. So this was really important to me to have this conversation now. It’s going to be out right before the holiday season. We know the economy’s maybe not the best it’s ever been. And we’re all trying our best. And there is going to be – there is a little more food insecurity during this time. It’s also interesting that we spoke about children because in the summer, when the kids, when there’s no school, a lot of kids, that’s where they depend on getting their meals from. Are there any special other times of year or programs or anything that are extra important for you as someone who’s seeing on the philanthropy side and on the charity side, when the food banks are reaching out a little bit more?

Yeah, absolutely. And you can kind of think about it as filling the meal gap. So for kids, if they get lunch at school, it’s about making sure they have dinner at home, on the weekdays, the weeknights, and then also food on the weekends. And then like you mentioned for the summer, that they have food when they’re not getting food at school, and then in winter, there’s always the rise in food insecurity as well. 

So one of the food banks that we work with, Operation Food Search, we actually volunteered along with a group of 50 GiftAMeal customers as well. And that was the max they could have to volunteer in this space. That was about a week and a half ago. We packed about 2000 meals of food that was for a program called Operation Backpack, where they actually go and deliver the food in bags, and they put them in the backpacks of the kids when they’re in class so there’s no stigma associated with it. The other kids don’t know that they’re getting that food and they can take that home.

Operation Backpack is one of the most amazing programs ever because of what you just said, it takes the stigma away from all of this.

Yes, absolutely. Yeah. So having that sense of humanity with it. And then also making sure that it’s actually effective and making the intended impact are both things that I really look at. With GiftAMeal, after a customer takes their photo to gift a meal, we actually display a story of somebody who has agreed to share their story, how they have been helped by the food banks and everything. And when you read about their stories, it’s something that can humanize hunger and feel that sense of connection. So it’s not just number. A million meals is a lot of meals. We’re doing nearly 40,000 meals donated per month. And that’s incredible. But I also want to make sure we’re not just getting caught up in the number, and we recognize each of those meals as helping a person at the end of the day because that’s what the impact is all about.

Right. No, I couldn’t agree more. And I do think it’s just such a shame in a country with such abundance that there are people, and like you said, one in six children are food insecure. And I appreciate you and I appreciate all that you and your company are doing. Anyone listening who wants to get involved with Gift A Meal for them as a restaurant level or as a consumer, Andrew’s information – do want to just, Andrew, quickly shout out your email? 

Absolutely. You can email at [email protected]. You can also book a demo or self sign-up really easily at GiftAMeal.com/partner. And we can launch a new restaurant within a week, if you’re an independent restaurant. And if you’re a chain, we can launch it as soon as two weeks. So this is something that you can get started on really quickly, in order to get the program going, and really get something started. It’s also month to month, no commitment. So really risk-free for a restaurant, not a huge cost and can have a really great impact for the communities you serve and your business. And then for people that are listening that just want to eat out at restaurants and want to help support, you can download the GiftAMeal app for free on iPhone or Android. Just search GiftAMeal on the App Store or Google Play Store, and search for GiftAMeal and download the app and you can see all the different restaurants that participate.

Anyone who’s listening knows that I only share things that I truly believe in, and I think are wonderful. Andrew, you’re the first person who we’ve had on who truly, not only was here to talk about their company, but really gave a plug at the end, because I do think that this is so important to give back to your community. So again, thank you so much to you and to everyone at GiftaMeal, and thank you everyone who’s listening. We look forward to hearing from you in the new year. Thank you. 

Absolutely, thank you. Thank you so much for having me. 

Thanks.

Thank you to all of our listeners to the Dana Delivers by Aprio podcast. If you liked today’s podcast, please hit the subscribe button. Dana Delivers is brought to you by Aprio, a premier accounting and business advisory firm with offices across the US and clients around the globe.

About Andrew Glantz:

Andrew Glantz is the Founder & CEO of GiftAMeal, the nation’s most-awarded charitable marketing platform for restaurants.

He started GiftAMeal in 2015 while studying at Washington University in St. Louis, using his knowledge of running nonprofits. Currently, over a million meals have been provided through this organization to people facing food insecurity.

Glantz made the Business Journal’s “30 under 30” List and regularly lectures to college students on topics like restaurant marketing to negotiations. He serves on the Alumni Board of Governors for Washington University and mentors young entrepreneurs through the Future Founders organization.