Subscription Box Startup Means There Is Such A Thing As Free Lunch

A startup called Lunchspread brings the curated experience of subscription boxes to the employee meal break.

Lunchspread, a new startup, provides offices with complimentary bites from local vendors, like this example from Bombay Sandwich Co.

Courtesy Lunchspread

The subscription box boom of the past year is reminiscent of the cupcake surge that took hold in New York City in the late aughts. Want the latest in beauty, or the best maternity products for each trimester? There’s a box for both. Now, a new startup called Lunchspread is bringing the curated experience to the employee meal break.

Andrew Wang launched Lunchspread last November to help independent restaurants lure new customers. The service goes beyond coupons and website click bait and instead aims to solve the customer acquisition challenge by generating actual foot traffic. By extension, employees get to experience uncharted eateries in proximity to their workplace for free. In less than three months, Wang has provided complimentary bites to more than 5,000 office workers from14th to 57th streets in New York City.

“We kind of took the concept of discovery commerce created by Birchbox and modified it to make sense for a restaurant,” says Wang, who cut his teeth at Savored, a digital marketing provider for the restaurant industry acquired by Groupon in 2012. “So instead of ten dollars a box, the food is completely free to the consumer.”

This approach flips the subscription box strategy on its head. More often than not, companies provide branded stock at no cost in exchange for exposure, while subscribers pick up the box’s price tag, which can range from $10 to $75 a month. With Lunchspread, participating restaurants are charged about a dollar per employee based on targeted leads of groups of four to ten coworkers. Wang says these office workers are meted out based on factors that would make them more likely to become regular customers

“We’re trying to create a database where restaurants are able to take their marketing into their own hands “ says Wang. “If you’re an Italian sandwich shop, you can apply filters that say ‘I only want people that spend between $9 and $11 because my sandwich is $10, or I want offices that order a lot of catering because I’m trying to grow my catering business’.”

Lunchspread is able to provide this direct marketing experience through questionnaires that an office manager or group leader fills out when they sign up to receive samples. The survey gathers information, including dietary restrictions and likes and dislikes, as well as the average amount spent on lunch.

Currently, there are 25 restaurants testing out the service while it is in beta mode. Wang says the goal is to service the entire Manhattan area and eventually grow to include New York City and beyond. Now, “free” lunch really is free without any added strings attached.

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