No matter what Los Angeles neighborhood you go to, a Big Mac always costs around $4.
But a chain of new healthy fast food restaurants in the city, called Everytable, will do things differently. The restaurants will have different prices based on the median income of residents living in surrounding neighborhoods.
Opening July 30, Everytable’s first location in South LA will serve seasonal, healthy dishes for less than $4.50 each, co-founders Sam Polk and David Foster tell Tech Insider. At its planned second location in downtown LA, where residents typically earn much more, the same items will cost around $8.
The menu at the South LA location, which will change seasonally, features salads, bowls, and kids’ meals, including kale chicken Caesar salad, Jamaican jerk chicken, and Yucatan chili. Everytable sources its meats, fruits, and vegetables from local purveyors and makes the dishes from scratch every morning, Foster says.
The food is stacked on refrigerated shelves so that customers can grab it and go. If they want to stay and eat, there are also a few tables and microwaves.
Any leftover meals are given to homeless shelters every day.
Everytable was born out of Polk’s nonprofit, called Groceryships, which gives LA families scholarships to buy groceries. The chosen families get weekly gift cards for organic produce, weekly meetings with nutritionists, medical screenings and recipes.
The team is able to keep prices low at Everytable — items range from $2.95 to $4.50 in South LA — because the small, grab-and-go store saves on rent and doesn’t have many employees, Polk says. Meals are prepared in bulk at an off-site kitchen and delivered to the store, which keeps production costs down. He adds that being based in California — where a third of the country’s produce is grown — allows them to easily source fresh food from nearby farms at a low price.
Plus, the boosted prices in the downtown LA location, which is slated to open by the end of 2016, will keep the South LA menu affordable.
Polk and Foster say that keeping prices consistent across neighborhoods just doesn’t make sense considering that residents of South LA earn a median household income of $30,882, which is low compared to the rest of the city. Those in downtown LA make considerable more: a median income of $99,900.
“Our first two locations are only about two miles apart, but the needs of each community are so different,” Foster says. “Why not build a model where everyone can access the same meals at a price that makes sense for them?”
Plus, the costs of the food at the downtown LA location — $8 for a bowl or salad — are still reasonable. Other healthy fast food chains in LA, like Simply Salad and Mixt Greens, charge between $7 and $13 for similar items.
Though dressings add extra calories, the menu looks relatively healthy. Unlike most cheap fast food joints, there aren’t any burgers or fries — instead, kids can eat barbecue chicken salad, cajun blackened fish, and turkey-quinoa meatballs.
Everytable’s two head chefs, Craig Hopson (the former executive chef of New York City’s Le Cirque) and Johnny Yoo (a former chef at LA’s A-Frame), drew inspiration from local LA cuisine when creating the menu. They also worked with South LA residents to develop the dishes. For example, the recipe for Everytable’s Pozole Rojo (hot pork) bowl came from a local mom who was awarded a Groceryship.
“We wanted to be sure we’re appealing to the communities we serve,” Polk says.
Everytable plans to expand to more LA neighborhoods in the future, Foster says. Their goal is to make sure that everyone in the city can feed themselves easily.
“Stores in food deserts are self-sustaining, while stores in more affluent areas help us grow,” he explains. “Each store is an important part of the larger mission.”
Everytable’s South LA location will open at 1101 West 23rd Street on July 30.