This Food Startup Staffed By Refugees Doubled Its Sales After The Travel Ban

Eat Offbeat features chefs from around the world cooking hard-to-find dishes. Apparently, a lot of people are hungry.

After Trump issued his executive order blocking refugees from entering the U.S. (along with travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries), orders started pouring in at Eat Offbeat, a New York City-based meal delivery startup staffed by refugees.


“It all started last weekend after the executive order,” says Manal Kahi, CEO and co-founder of Eat Offbeat, herself an immigrant from Lebanon. “By Monday or Tuesday we started getting overwhelming messages–emails from people saying how can we support you, we’ve read about what you do, and we want to find a way to help.”

In a week, the startup doubled sales compared to the previous month.

Eat Offbeat hires talented refugee chefs to make authentic, traditional food that isn’t typically found on restaurant menus, even in a city like New York. A home chef from Nepal makes meatballs called chari bari and dumplings called momos. A chef from Syria makes a salad called eech. A chef from Iraq makes her version of kibbeh, potato croquettes stuffed with beef and onions.

Sales have grown continuously since the company launched about a year ago, but the rage over the executive order gave the startup a much bigger boost. By Friday, February 3, all 14 of the refugee chefs–some of whom typically work part time–were busy in the startup’s kitchen, and Eat Offbeat had to enlist friends to help cover the onslaught of deliveries. The startup now has orders in place for the rest of the month.

The support has motivated the whole team. “It gave me even more determination,” says Kahi. “That weekend, as a person, I felt vulnerable. As a company, we felt vulnerable. But then we looked around and we thought, what can we do about this situation? All we can do is keep doing what we’re doing, and keep doing it even better than we were doing it. That’s providing excellent food, and proving the value that refugees are bringing to New York.”

[Photos (unless otherwise noted): via Eat Offbeat]


About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.