Company catered meals are a nice perk for employees, but the concept also reinforces have/have not inequalities in American life. Well paid office workers, who obviously have jobs, get hot meals delivered. Those who truly need it, you’re on your own. As with so many facets of our everyday lives, the COVID pandemic has only made these types of inequalities worse, especially at a time when roughly 26 million Americans said their households had food shortages in the past week.
While Sharebite is a corporate catering service facilitating those lunch perks for businesspeople, it is built from the ground up to try and balance out those inequalities. As part of the company’s mission-driven approach, everytime an order is placed on its platform and donation is made to City Harvest in New York City.
Like most corporate catering companies, Sharebite is a software platform that partners with different local restaurants and other foodservice operators in its delivery areas (currently: New York, Washington D.C., Chicago, and the San Francisco Bay Area). Businesses that use the Sharebite platform can set up parameters around what meals are available to employees as well as when and how much they are subsidized. Employees can then order their meals and Sharebite takes care of everything else including delivery.
But in addition to bringing meals to the office, Sharebite takes that extra step and adds the donation component. “We get paid a commission by the restaurant,” Sharebite Co-Founder and CEO, Dilip Rao told me by phone this week, “We take a percent of that commission and donate to City Harvest.”
This, according to Rao, creates a win/win/win situation. Of course, just about every CEO says that of their company, but in Sharebite’s case, that seems to be true. Employees going into the office get meals, restaurants get more business at a time they desperately need it, and City Harvest gets more donations.
Of course, the bigger question now is what will the corporate catering market look like in the coming year. A lot of big companies switched to remote working during the pandemic, and the future of office work is still in flux. Rao said that despite an initial drop off in corporate business early in the pandemic, Sharebite has grown 400 percent year to date.
Sharebite isn’t the only startup that is optimistic about the future of corporate catering. Last week ZeroCater announced a new subsidy feature for its platform to give employers more flexibility when paying for office meals. ZeroCater also believes that its AI-based approach to meal recommendations will help bring more employee satisfaction because their time spent in the office will include a meal more suited to their taste.
This week, Sharebite announced that WeWork was installing Sharebite Stations across its four headquarter offices in New York City. The recently launched Sharebite Station is a tech platform that allows employees to order meals and arrange contactless deliveries inside a building. As part of the arrangement, WeWork and Sharebite are donating more than 15,000 meals to City Harvest.
Sharebite’s get-and-give approach to corporate catering won’t erase existing inequalities, but at least its mission-based approach is a step in the right direction.