giftameal founder andrew glantz photo courtesy of giftameal

GiftAMeal founder Andrew Glantz combines giving back with profit-for-a-purpose business model

Combining a passion for giving back and a profit-with-a-purpose business model, Andrew Glantz founded GiftAMeal while he was a student at Washington University. When a diner uses the GiftAMeal app to take a photo of their meal at a participating restaurant, the partner restaurant donates a meal to a food bank. If the user shares that photo to social media, the restaurant donates another meal. Here, Glantz offers insights on his background in nonprofits and how GiftAMeal built its network of over 900 partner restaurants across 37 states, enabling the app’s users to feel good about giving back through dining out.

“Growing up, I was always interested in giving back to various causes in any way I could. When I was in high school, I was vice president of a nonprofit called Junior Variety that was about kids helping kids. During my four years on the board, we raised $350,000 for kids across needs like hunger, mobility and education. That was my first leadership role in the nonprofit world.”

“When I was in college, I was co-owner of a nonprofit called Sharing With a Purpose. It was a storefront where people could donate items and also take items for free to promote reuse and sustainability, whether it was textbooks, clothing or kitchenware.”

“While I was a student at Wash U, I had an internship with a venture capital firm, which is where I got exposed to startups. One day on lunch, I discussed with another intern how millennials love supporting businesses that give back. The managing partner at the firm told me about business models that can be for profit, but with a purpose. I came up with the idea for GiftAMeal on my lunch break talking with the other intern. I pulled from a Toms Shoes [or] Warby Parker buy-one-give-one model, and combined that with the idea of people posting photos of their restaurant meals on social media.”

“I put my savings into the business and hired an app development company to build the first version of GiftAMeal and launched it in October 2015, while I was still in college. I graduated in May 2017 and really started pursuing the app full time.”

“One of the biggest obstacles was about getting early adopters. One of our first restaurants that joined was Anthonino’s Taverna on the Hill, and they’re well respected, so that helped us get other restaurants on board. When we were looking to expand more nationally, we were looking at working with chain restaurants. It was one of those things where it was hard to get that first big fish to commit, and the first one to give us a shot was Lion’s Choice.”

“That showed us this could actually work, not just with the mom and pops, but also with a chain. Then we were able to partner with a franchisee of Andy’s Frozen Custard with half [their restaurants] in St. Louis and half in North Carolina, so that showed us we could succeed outside of St. Louis with a chain.”

“As the founder, being in touch with what the restaurants want is something that I think is really important to be involved with. My job is a blend of overseeing the team [of six], making sure everyone’s jobs are in sync with one another, as well as working on pitching new restaurants to join the program, managing finances, billing and working with our chief technology officer on our tech development and strategy as we look to build out new feature sets, internal tools or automations. It’s a little bit of everything. I wear all different hats as CEO of a startup, and that’s something that I really enjoy.”

“We’ve just launched some integration partnerships with some other food-tech companies so that we can seamlessly integrate GiftAMeal with chain restaurants. One of the things I see for the future is continuing to develop GiftAMeal to integrate into a restaurant’s own experience, whether that’s through the restaurant’s own mobile app, online ordering, delivery or any way that a customer wants to interact with that restaurant.”

“We’ve provided 1.6 million meals to those in need so far, and for the future we’re looking at surpassing 1,000 participating restaurants in the near term. My goal is to eventually be providing over a million meals per year to those in need.”

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