In this season of tradition, let’s celebrate some disruption

In this season of tradition, let’s celebrate some disruption

Doug Rauch is the former president of Trader Joe’s and the founder of Daily Table. We shared his story a couple of years ago. The spark that lit a fire under Daily Table came when Doug realized obesity is the new face of hunger in America and that the problem inner-city families were facing was not a lack of calories, but a lack of nutrients. Doug wanted not only to deliver nutrient-rich food and produce to the underserved, but also to provide them with a dignified shopping experience.

So, Daily Table was born. A retail store that provides affordable, nutritious food in an environment that is safe and allows customers to shop and buy with dignity. As an alternative to donations and government subsidies, Doug’s second epiphany was to buy shortcode product – perishable foods that have only several months code cycle left – and which can’t be moved through the system fast enough for traditional stores to sell them. About 20% of this shortcode product is donated, and 80% is bought at a deep discount. Families get to buy nutritious and affordable food before its expiry without having to give any information except a zip code to ensure IRS regulations are met.

When we first spoke to Doug, Daily Table’s focus was on growth. How have they done since then? We caught up with Doug for an update.

Doug shared that Daily Table has opened a second store in the heart of Roxbury, an economically challenged section of Boston, and they have a third store under construction and about to open (first half of January) in Central Square, Cambridge. More importantly, Doug points out, “We now have over 42,000 members. The IRS requires us to be a membership store–but membership is free and open to all. It allows us to track our customers by ZIP to validate we’re predominantly serving what IRS calls a ‘charitable class.'”

And, the positive impact Daily Table is having goes way beyond providing nutrition to inner-city families. Doug noted “We made the decision almost two years ago to raise our minimum pay rate to $15/hr. When COVID hit we were one of the first retailers to provide a $2/hr emergency pay bonus to all our store/kitchen workers. That lasted 4.5 months, and when we ended the emergency pay bonus (one of the last retailers in MA to do so), we only went back to $15.69/hr, as that is the official City of Boston Living Wage. Our staff, frankly, was more grateful for the permanent $.69/hr increase than they were for the temporary $2/hr. We felt that the issue around pay wasn’t really ‘how can we afford to do this’, but ‘how can we not afford to do this for our team?'”

Daily Table keeps a close eye on the total needs of their customers. Doug stated that “With COVID, many of our customers are finding it difficult to get to our store regularly. Most of our customers don’t have a car, and taking public transportation is risky during the crisis (and once again now that the virus is spiking again in Boston). As a result, we’ve been working to set up an online/home delivery to serve our community. We plan on launching this the week after Thanksgiving. We’ve also been officially approved by the USDA to be one of the first grocers in the nation (other than Amazon and Walmart who have been the beta test) to offer online, home delivery using SNAP and third party delivery services (Uber Eats, DoorDash, etc). This will allow us to provide our most challenged customers the exact same price they’d find in our store, now delivered to their front door and pay for it using SNAP. We’re able to offer this during the crisis through charitable donations that cover the delivery fee for SNAP recipients.”

In closing, Doug noted, ” As a nonprofit committed to delivering truly affordable nutrition, even for a SNAP food budget, we lose money every month. However, with our unique retail model, we currently cover approximately 70% of all expenses through our own internally generated revenue. We expect that with the opening of our third store that will rise to close to 80%— world-class in the hunger relief/food access space.”

As an agency that specializes in creating sustainable and socially-conscious marketing initiatives, it’s a pleasure to find a company with a cause that is not only doing good but doing well. Hats off to Daily Table.

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