A Pioneering Social Equity Restaurant Franchise Aims to Fix Industry’s Discriminatory Practices

A Pioneering Social Equity Restaurant Franchise Aims to Fix Industry’s Discriminatory Practices

Co-founded in 2016 by CEO Sam Polk, Everytable is a mission-driven food company that fights for food justice and equality by providing healthy and nutritious food that is accessible and affordable for everyone.

Everytable is a multi-channel, fresh-prepared food business blending grab-and-go storefronts, subscriptions, and SmartFridges supplied by a central kitchen with meals priced according to the income level the neighborhood is located. To date, Everytable has sold more than 4 million meals and has 10 locations throughout the Los Angeles area. The purpose of Everytable’s innovative new Social Equity Franchise program is to foster economic empowerment among entrepreneurs from marginalized communities, providing training, marketing support, and importantly, critical access to capital.

With a combined $4.5 million in program-related investments from W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Annenberg Foundation, the California Wellness Foundation (Cal Wellness), and Dignity Health, the program plans to open 40 Everytable franchise locations in Southern California within the next two years.

The new program is led by Bryce Fluellen, a food justice veteran, who has spearheaded food justice and social equity programs at Magic Johnson Enterprises through Starbucks, TGI Fridays, and Loew’s movie theaters, and most recently the American Heart Association. He is also a Master Chef.

BLACK ENTERPRISE spoke with Fluellen about the newly launched Everytable franchise program, as well as Dorcia Whitebrake, the first franchise candidate in training.

Bryce Fluellen
Bryce Fluellen, executive director, social equity franchise program, at Everytable

BLACK ENTERPRISE: Bryce, how does the Everytable franchise program work?

Bryce Fluellen:  Everytable is a food company that sells nutritious, fresh- prepared meals, as well as subscription meal plans, priced affordably for guests that live in the community. With the program funds we’ve secured from various foundations, we’re able to offer five-year loans to franchise owners to cover the cost of the location, with a very low 2% interest rate.  This eliminates one of the biggest hurdles for franchise candidates, as we don’t require any capital upfront, nor the traditional requirements to secure a bank loan.

Upon acceptance to the program, a candidate must attend Everytable University. This is a six- to 12-month, multi-disciplinary educational series that provides in-depth, hands-on paid training to empower and prepare disenfranchised entrepreneurs to open an Everytable. This includes leadership training, public speaking, civic engagement, accounting, finance, marketing, management, operations, retirement planning, etc. After successfully graduating from the training program, the candidate officially becomes a franchise owner, and a completed, turn-key location is ready for them to open. Our internal real estate team secures the location and handles the build-out. Then we provide guidance and support to the franchisee for hiring and training their staff. The average cost of an Everytable location is $250,000. However, the loan repayment doesn’t begin until the store starts to make a profit. Additionally, because most entrepreneurs of color often don’t have a cushion to fall back on, Everytable franchisees are guaranteed an annual salary of $40,000 in their first three years in business.

That’s an incredible opportunity for people that could never afford a traditional franchise and significantly increases the rate of success by removing the burden of having to worry about building a new business while paying everyday living expenses.

That’s correct. This franchise program is designed to foster economic empowerment among entrepreneurs from marginalized communities. Our social equity initiative has the potential to change lives, creating equity while promoting health among those who have been on the margins of society. This is also a huge opportunity to create economic mobility, empowerment, and ownership for those who have been divested from for so long. We believe this program can serve as a template that can be replicated across the country and the franchise industry.

Our goal is to open 40 Everytable social equity franchise stores in Los Angeles over the next two years and then expand to the East Coast late 2021, early 2022. We want to provide economic empowerment to owners, so they are able to leverage their earnings and profit to open additional locations, as well as become homeowners, create retirement plans, and build generational wealth.

What is the application process to be considered for the Everytable franchise opportunity, and what are you looking for in an owner?

Well, we’re still working on the application process, so for now, we’re focusing on internal candidates.  Current employees at Everytable such as retail store managers or employees that are working in our centralized production kitchens where we make and assemble all the meals. We have an incredibly dedicated pool of employees to select from, and we anticipate many of them will want to take part in this opportunity. As the program grows, we plan to work with community colleges and economic development organizations to identify more candidates.

In regard to what we’re looking for in a candidate, we’re looking for mission-oriented people that care about community. Of course, we want them to want to make money, but also to see the community do well.  Everytable operations are relatively simple because we don’t have to deal with the complexities of an onsite commercial kitchen. So, we can focus on people that have a passion for entrepreneurship, or it could be someone that has been in the fast-food industry for many years but doesn’t want to run a full-service restaurant. We require the business to be owner-operated, so this opportunity isn’t for people that want something semi-absentee or passive. Having the owner operate the store also decreases the labor costs.  Managers are typically working the floor 30-40 hours per week. Lastly, we’re looking for people that can demonstrate leadership and want to grow with the company, and in-turn offer up suggestions and improvements that can be implemented. Some of the best suggestions for new menu items come from employees.

Dorcia Whitebrake
Dorcia Whitebrake, Everytable franchisee-in-training, Hollywood, CA

Everytable’s First Franchise Owner Candidate – Dorcia Whitebrake

Dorcia Whitbrake, 51, is a Black single mother of three living in South Los Angeles.  For decades she made ends meet working multiple jobs. Today, she is proud to be an owner-in-training for Everytable in Hollywood, CA, located at 6775 Hollywood Blvd.

Dorcia is the very definition of hard work and resilience, serving as a teacher’s assistant in the Los Angeles Unified School District for many years, while also starting and running a successful event assistance and clean-up business. She is also working on earning a double associate’s degree in sociology and liberal arts.

BLACK ENTERPRISE:  Congratulations on being the first candidate in the Everytable franchise program. Do you come from an entrepreneurial background?

Whitebrake:  Not at all!  I started my event assistance and clean up business to earn extra money – it was more about survival.  But I was never able to build it to where I wanted it to be.  I think I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit, but definitely not the background.  I’ve worked 2-3 jobs most of my life.

How did you first get involved with Everytable and how does it feel to be selected as the first franchise candidate?

I started as a store employee and they offered me a manager position. I didn’t feel I was ready for that, so I turned it down. Luckily, they approached me again, and that time I accepted. Then, a few months ago, Sam Polk approached me with the franchise ownership program opportunity, and I couldn’t believe it! It just didn’t feel real.

As for being the first, it’s both an honor but a bit of pressure. But ever since I started working for Everytable, you’re taught to take ownership, regardless of what position you have. I’ve always felt very supported. It feels great to be representing Black women and entrepreneurs of color.  I know I am capable and that Everytable believes in me.

Everytable Franchise
Everytable Franchise,  multi-channel, fresh-prepared food business

What are some of the expectations you have as an owner and what would you tell others who might be interested in the opportunity?

My expectation is that I will be supported and successful. I have three children. Two of them have worked at Everytable and my daughter is very excited about the ownership opportunity–she wants to know everything!  They want to know when they can start coming in to help with the store. My oldest son was just re-hired at Everytable as well. My hope is that this will become a family business and we will purchase additional locations. I’m focused on building wealth and achieving my dream of buying a home and eventually setting up a trust fund for my family.

When you become part of Everytable you have to really want to serve people. You have to have a spirit of love and care about the community. We are all fueled by the mission of providing healthy, affordable, nourishing meals to people that couldn’t normally afford this type of food. It’s more than just a job, you have to put your heart and soul into it.