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GiftAMeal turns photos into food

There’s just something about being the first…

One of our Silicon Prairie News reporters was recently able to claim the happy honor of being the first customer at the grand opening of the Chocolate Pig in St. Louis.  She stumbled upon the eclectic eatery while on assignment to cover the Startup Connection Showcase in November.

She wandered into the Chocolate Pig, a restaurant from 23 City Blocks Hospitality Group, just as the staff were gearing up for a big opening weekend. Famished, but satisfied by having met dozens of interesting and friendly founders in the St. Louis startup scene, she was quickly greeted by Amanda Bradham-Little, Vice President of Marketing Events for 23 City Blocks Catering, who enthusiastically announced to our reporter that she was officially their first guest.

The Chocolate Pig is as part of Venture Café St. Louis’ Innovation Hall at 4220 Duncan Ave., in the Cortex Innovation community.  The St. Louis Venture Café Gathering is held every Thursday in the @4240 building in the Cortex Innovation Community (4240 Duncan Avenue) from 3:00-8:00 p.m.  (Our reporter gives the Chocolate Pig a standing ovation all around; she found the food selection and service to be top notch, in case you’re making your dining reservations, dear readers).

Our reporter, whilst being ushered to her table, was surprised and delighted to hear a familiar name mentioned….

“We just want to let you know that GiftAMeal will donate a free meal when you snap a photo of your meal on their app.”

GiftAMeal provides a cash donation every time a patron uploads a photo of their meal to the app.

As it happened, SPN was there to witness GiftAMeal claim the previous evening’s two top prizes – $10,000 in consulting services from Slalom Consulting, as well as $2,500 in cash from Enterprise Holdings – at the Startup Connection Showcase.  At PitchForce (a pitch competition held in newly created Innovation Hall in 4220 in Cortex) on November 11th, GiftAMeal also won both 1st Place and the People’s Choice Award.

Andrew Glantz had an original idea during the summer of 2014 while having lunch as a sophomore at Washington University in St. Louis.  He was intrigued by the ALS bucket challenge and thought about how he could apply the same philanthropic spirit to restaurant dining. Glantz recruited Aidan Folbe, and together they founded GiftAMeal in October 2015.

The team publically announced a $165,000 raise from nine investors on October 25. In addition, GiftAMeal is a 2018 Arch Grants winner.

Just a few weeks after announcing a $165,000 seed round of funding, GiftAMeal has been selected to receive a $50,000 Arch Grant. Out of hundreds of applicants from around the globe, Arch Grants selected GiftAMeal as one of 20 companies to receive the grant. The grant does not require GiftAMeal to give up any equity in the company and does not require anything paid back. The requirement for Arch Grant recipients is to headquarter in St. Louis for at least the next year.

GiftaMeal is a mobile app.  Client restaurants pay a monthly subscription for the service and may select from one of three plans priced $49, $79, or $149.  Client restaurants have access to 19,000 diners on the app – and growing. The app is free for restaurant patron download and use.

Each time a restaurant patron uploads a photo of their meal using the app, GiftAMeal provides a cash donation for one meal to the local community food bank.  The amount of the donation depends on food bank costs.

Operation Food Search in St. Louis spends 11 cents to provide 1.2 pounds of food (1 meal per U.S. Department of Agriculture) to a local pantry which includes refrigeration and labor.  The partner food bank in Chicago spends 12.5 cents per meal and the partner in Detroit spends 23 cents per meal provided to local pantries. Food includes produce, meat, canned goods, and non-perishables.

GiftAMeal collected metadata for seven months and established that patrons are drawn to businesses that donate a portion of their proceeds to charitable causes, such as GiftAMeal provides.

According to Glantz, the majority of GiftAMeal’s user base are philanthropically-minded millennial diners who appreciate the experience of giving back to their community. However, GiftAMeal has app users from all generations.  Glantz recounts that one diner without a smartphone noticed the table tent and loved the idea so much that she wrote a check for $50 to GiftAMeal.  (Visit  www.giftameal.com/business to review GiftAMeal testimonials).

“For me, GiftAMeal is a way to prove that profits and purpose can be consistent goals in a company. Too frequently people see doing well and doing good as tradeoffs when in reality they work really well together. With GiftAMeal, as we grow and become more profitable, we will also be able to make a bigger impact to potentially feed millions of people in need across the country,” said Glantz.

GiftAMeal donated 30,000 meals by the time Glantz graduated in May 2017, and the company has provided 196,031 meals since the company launched.   The company has doubled its partner restaurants over the last 5 months, reaching 150 partner restaurants to date. Though most are in St. Louis, GiftAMeal also has client restaurants in Chicago and Detroit.

The restaurant genres are generally across the board, Glantz told SPN, but in general, core restaurant clients are fast casual or casual dining – typically not fast food or fine dining, though the app would work in those cases as well.  Cuisines are all over the board from Italian, American, Mexican to Brazilian, Afghan, and Lebanese.

Glantz is pleased that St. Louis is the company home base, though he looks to expand its user base quickly in other markets.  “St. Louis is the perfect place to create and grow a startup. The entrepreneurial ecosystem is booming, and the resources are in place to support entrepreneurs through the trials and tribulations of making a company successful,” said Glantz.  “Everyone in the community wants you to succeed and offers their assistance however they can. GiftAMeal would not be where it is today without the help of St. Louis!”

GiftAMeal’s plans over the next year to 18 months include reviewing their marketing efforts, expanding their sales team, and hiring more app developers.  The company has quadrupled its monthly recurring revenue since February of this year and has increased the average amount that restaurants are paying by 25% as they select higher level plans with additional services.

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Download the GiftAMeal app for free at www.giftameal.com/download to join their journey. Do you work at a restaurant or know someone that does? Contact andrew@giftameal.com to connect about getting a new restaurant on the app.

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