If your company can’t afford a Google-sized kitchen that doles out free snacks, you might be stuck with an ancient vending machine full of dusty candy bars. But a new startup is trying to offer a better option: fresh food, made by local vendors, tailored to what employees actually want to eat.
“Ninety-nine percent of all offices don’t have fresh food on site,” says Megan Mokri, founder of Byte Foods, the San Francisco-based startup. “There’s this pretty significant disconnect between people now shopping at Whole Foods and other high-quality grocers and then going to work, and their food’s stuck in 1982. If they’re lucky, they’ve got a vending machine, or maybe there’s a [food truck] or vendor with the same menu day in and day out.”
While running a previous meal delivery company, and as a student at the University of California-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, Mokri and her cofounder realized that new technology could offer offices something different.
Byte’s small fridges, loaded with locally made salads, cold-pressed juices, sandwiches, and coffee from local favorite Blue Bottle, are accessed with the swipe of a credit card. When someone takes out a snack, the fridge tracks each purchase.
Unlike a vending machine, where candy bars might stay in place for as long as a year, the fresh foods Byte offers sometimes have a shelf life of as little as two days. “The big piece that allows us to do this is that we have data,” says Mokri. “We have data on what people are buying and when. We have data on the shelf life of every single item in every single fridge that we operate, and we have real-time inventory data.”
With the data, the company is able to tailor the contents of each fridge for each location. So far, Byte works with more than 150 offices in the Bay Area, including CBS, Autodesk, SolarCity, and the San Francisco SPCA. They focus on organizations that don’t otherwise offer employees stacks of free snacks.
“There’s a plethora of options for companies that fully subsidize food for employees, but for those that don’t have the budget, that’s really where we see the greenfield opportunity,” she says. “Tech companies are not a core client base, which might sound funny, being in the heart of San Francisco, but that certainly is the case.”
Byte plans to expand to more major metropolitan areas. “Really any place that has a good prevalence of Whole Foods is a good place for Byte to be,” Mokri says.
All Photos: via Byte Foods