According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 48.1 million Americans have insecure access to food, including 32.8 million adults and 15.3 million children (approximately 1 out of 5).
Several restaurants recognize these needs, and are trying to win the war against hunger. For example, Rosa's Fresh Pizza in Philadelphia, has a "pay-it-forward" concept allowing customers to feed local homeless people a slice of pizza for one dollar.
Inspired by TOMs shoes, the company that gives a pair of shoes to someone in need with every pair sold -- Even Stevens, a new restaurant based in Salt Lake City, gives a sandwich to a local hungry person with every sandwich sold. According to their website, Even Stevens has donated 444,022 sandwiches so far.
Conscious capitalism as the concept behind Even Stevens
The founder of Even Stevens, Steve Down, is a serial entrepreneur with several start-ups he's currently trying to build to IPO. As the father of millennials who care deeply about social consciousness and giving, Down saw the opportunity to use his skills as an entrepreneur to turn the food service industry into a force for social good. The result is "a sandwich shop with a cause."
Even Stevens is growing rapidly, with two new restaurants opening per month. During the month of April, 2016, they opened three new locations:
- Logan, Utah
- Ogden, Utah
- Boise, Idaho
These three new additions make seven current locations since the first opened in Salt Lake City in June, 2014.
Down plans to have 20+ locations open by the end of 2016. The 10 year plan is to have 4,000 locations feeding over 1,000,000 people per day. To put these numbers in perspective, Subway has approximately 34,000 locations and Chipotle has approximately 2,000.
Anyone inside the restaurant industry would consider the objectives of Even Stevens to be ludicrous. Yet, Down doesn't care about these perceptions; but believes it takes someone outside the industry to approach things differently. He believes the results of Even Stevens speak for themselves, with each location currently opened achieving profitability within the first 30-60 days.
Down believes the success of Even Stevens comes down to a few things:
- Creating "raving fans" with an emphasis on social consciousness.
- Having a product worth coming back for, meaning the food has to be delicious.
- Amazing service and customer experience, with local art and graffiti decorating each restaurant.
Difficulties getting Even Stevens "off the ground"
There are two primary challenges Even Stevens has faced getting to where it's at:
- Getting people to invest during the early days. It's not uncommon knowledge that most restaurants fail the first year (90 percent to be exact). And to have a restaurant that gives thousands of sandwiches away every day. That was a tough sell. However, says, "With several profitable locations open and many more close to opening, many people are eager to invest now."
According to Steve Down, every company should have a "give-back." Not only is it socially conscious, and right, but according to Down it's also good business.
In order to maintain their rapid growth and growing fan base, Susan Knight, the chief investment officer of Even Stevens believes the biggest hurdle will be "making sure not to compromise quality as they grow."