Michael Thomas for theSTL
Andrew Glantz, founder of GiftAMeal.
Andrew Glantz founded GiftAMeal in 2015 to make an impact in his community and beyond. Now, thanks to a $20,000 award from the Skandalaris Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship, his socially conscious company is able to expand its reach.
On April 23, GiftAMeal won the top prize at the Skandalaris Center's Global Impact Awards, an annual nod given to Washington University students, post-doctoral researchers and recent alumni. The $20,000 prize is meant to help GiftAMeal scale its business — something that Glantz and his team have been working toward for the past five years.
"We've been exploring expansion cautiously, especially because of COVID-19, and want to expand our partner restaurants," Glantz explains. "We're also looking into hiring and further growing to help expand into new cities. The more restaurants that get involved, the more meals we can donate and the bigger impact we can have."
A native of Los Angeles, Glantz founded GiftAMeal while he was an undergraduate student at Washington University. The idea came to him during a summer internship after talking with the managing partner of the firm where was he was working about the concept of a profit-with-a-purpose business model. The idea was that a for-profit business model and a socially conscious mission were not mutually exclusive and could actually feed off one another for a win-win result. That day, while on his lunch break, he had a conversation with a friend about how millennial entrepreneurs are finding ways to give back; once the conversation drifted onto the topic of restaurants, he had his lightbulb moment.
The idea of GiftAMeal is simple. Restaurants pay a monthly subscription fee to the company to be a part of the program and diners find participating restaurants via the GiftAMeal app. Every time a diner takes a picture of her meal, GiftAMeal donates the amount of a meal to Operation Food Search. If the diner posts the photo to social media, the company donates up to two additional meals.
As Glantz explains, GiftAMeal's appeal to the Global Impact Award judges was that it was a clear benefit for all involved. For diners, there is the satisfaction of knowing that the simple act of taking a photo they would likely already take results in a meal for someone who is hungry. For Operation Food Search, the donation means it can expand its reach and offer more meals to those in need.
The most interesting part of the program, however, is the positive impact it has on participating restaurants. Though the COVID-19 pandemic has halted the release of the results, Glantz and his teammates conducted a seventeen month-long survey with Bloom Cafe which clearly showed that partner restaurants see a financial benefit from participating. Guests who use the GiftAMeal app spend, on average, 25 percent more than non-users, tip more and return at a higher rate.
"It's super easy for users, and it has a big impact for restaurants and Operation Food Search," Glantz says.
To help restaurants during the COVID-19 crisis, GiftAMeal has suspended the monthly subscription fee and is allowing diners to take photos of their food outside of the restaurant — typically, diners are required to photograph inside the business. Glantz hopes that the social impact of dining at a GiftAMeal partner will drive business to restaurants who have seen their sales crater in recent months. The company has also pledged $5,000 as part of a matching campaign; the effort raised $20,000 for Operation Food Search, funds that are desperately needed as the organization has seen an increase in need.
As Glantz explains, his intent is to use the $20,000 Global Impact Prize money to expand the business, hire more people and take the company to more cities across the country. However, for now, the funds have allowed him to respond to the immediate need right here in his adopted home.
"It's been tough, and we want to be very meticulous with expansion," Glantz says. "But we want to make sure we take care of our partner restaurants."
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