One of the big questions companies face as more of the population gets vaccinated is if and how they will re-open their physical offices. As Bloomberg wrote last month, some workers are just quitting their jobs instead of returning to offices. As such, companies are looking for ways to entice employees back into the building with different schedules and perks. Fraîche is pitching its smart fridges as one of those perks that can help ease people back into office life. The company is installing 10 of its fridges in locations across New York City this September.
On it’s face, Fraîche is kind of like Byte Technology in that it makes smart fridges where customers can grab what they want and get charged automatically. Unlike Byte however, Fraîche isn’t licensing its technology out to other retail brands. It will operate each fridge by itself and control what goes inside.
Technically speaking, Fraîche’s fridges work only with the accompanying app (unlike Byte, which allows you to swipe a credit card). Users create an account with the Fraîche app, including a selfie and their payment information. They can then check the inventory of their local fridge from the app, and when they go to grab something, the Fraîche fridge uses facial recognition (based on the selfie) to unlock itself. People take what they want and computer vision inside the fridge automatically keeps track of the items and charges users accordingly.
There are two main parts to Fraîche’s pitch. First, it can offer companies healthier, fresh food for employees without the need to build out a cafeteria or other on-site services. Smaller companies can’t afford to have such a cafeteria to begin with, and larger companies are figuring out their on-site food strategies. A Fraîche fridge can be stocked with healthy food choices, and is available around the clock.
The second part of Fraîche’s pitch is that, like Byte, companies can subsidize as much of the food offered as the like. So companies could foot the bill for half of a meal, or all of it, depending on their needs and budget. Tximista Lizarazu, CEO & Co-Founder at Fraîche told me by video chat this week that most companies he is talking to are choosing to subsidize food 100 percent. “They want to subsidize to make the office a better place than it used to be and convince people to come back,” Lizarazu said.
It’s not just companies that are interested in Fraîche, however. Building owners, too, are looking to attract tenants back, and Fraîche’s smart fridges are part of those leasing perk packages.
Right now Fraîche is focused solely on New York City. The company charges a monthly service fee to operate and maintain the machines, and also generates revenue from selling food. Fraîche currently makes and sells its own line of meals through its machine, but Lizarazu said that the company will be phasing that out in January to selling only food from local New York brands.
Fraîche started two years ago and has raised $1.2 million in Pre-Seed funding so far. Lizarazu said the company is stronger now than it was prior to the pandemic. “What we are doing is perfect for these hybrid offices,” he said. “We are in a better position now post-COVID, because of the health and wellness component.”
The question remains, however, whether food will help bring people back into offices.