In Dining

Healthy lunch delivered right to your home? That's what TiffinTime hopes to provide.

TiffinTime piloting new lunch delivery service to support local restaurants

Restaurants are struggling to stay afloat, with many barely getting by on the income from carry-out and delivery offerings.

At the same time, with more people working from home, consumers are in a greater need than ever of balanced, healthful lunch options that don't require a ton of time, energy or effort to prepare.

TiffinTime hopes to assist in solving both of these challenges with a relatively simple solution: a subscription-based lunch delivery service that helps to boost the bottom line for local restaurants and caterers during a time of crisis and beyond.

The nascent business, which is poised to launch in pilot format any day now, was created by Dr. Shalini Nag, founder of EvidaSolve, a company focused on helping small and mid-sized businesses to adapt their workplace cultures so their employees can perform to their highest potential and thrive in times of uncertainty and rapid change.

A novel idea that helps everyone

Nag says the idea for TiffinTime was birthed during the first few weeks of the COVID-19 shut-down. Restaurants throughout the city were looking for ways to boost revenues in anticipating of extended closures and encouraging diners to purchase gift cards as a means of support.

"I was a strategy consultant before I launched my own business," says Nag. "And my first thought was: 'That's not a sustainable solution.' When there's such long-term uncertainty, businesses need more reliable sources of income. And they need income that won't potentially cost them more over the long term."

So Nag began brainstorming potential solutions. As she thought more and more about what made sense, the idea for TiffinTime, a lunch subscription service, was born.

New to the city, Nag had been attending regular Saturday morning brainstorming sessions hosted by Code for Milwaukee, a volunteer-based organization whose members aim to assist in making Milwaukee a safer, healthier, and more fun city to live in.

"I floated this idea out there," she says. "And when i did so, people in my breakout room told me: 'We need this service right now.'"

Nag says the idea met with enough support that she began pursuing it in earnest. She reached out to a variety of people, including neighborhood BID directors, to glean feedback and determine how to move forward.

With their help, she refined and streamlined her idea, creating a streamlined system that connects local food and beverage businesses with busy customers in their neighborhoods who would benefit from daily lunch delivery.

Here's how TiffinTime works

Customers sign up for a lunch subscription through which healthy, locally sourced meals are delivered to their homes on a daily basis. A fairly sophisticated online system allows customers to specify their individual dietary restrictions and preferences. And, while subscribers don't choose the exact meals they receive each day, the meals they receive are built according to the preferences they've entered.

Those meal orders are then assigned to area restaurants, based on their capacity to service the subscribers' preferences and restrictions. Restaurant personnel prepare the meals and deliver them to the subscribers' homes.

"We provide the system and manage subscriptions to make it worth the restaurants' time," says Nag. "While the restaurants provide the food and the delivery to their neighborhood."

Nag says a given restaurant would likely provide three to five different lunch options each day, which would be matched to subscribers based on their indicated preferences. The short menu is intentional to keep costs low and food preparation simple.

"Subscribers will know the list of participating restaurants in their area," she says. "But the meals each day will be a surprise. And they will get something different every day."

Even better, restaurants would get the lion's share of the profits, with meals offered at a set price.

"We want this to be a collaborative type of membership," says Nag. "The whole motivation for this is to help local businesses to thrive. And if it's successful, the idea could be replicated across the city and beyond."

As for delivery, she says restaurants would have any number of choices. They could handle their own meal deliveries or collaborate with other area restaurants to make use of one driver.

In the end, Nag says, TiffinTime idea is simple. "It provides good food that people like, while creating business and income for restaurants."

Restaurants needed for pilot program

Nag says that TiffinTime is prepared for launch. Ideally, she says, she is looking for three to four restaurants from a given neighborhood who are willing to collaborate with her and participate in a pilot launch of the program.

"There is a market for this," says Nag. "So once we have restaurants on board, we could begin giving them meals and income in as little as a couple of weeks."

Restaurants who are interested in being part of the TiffinTime pilot program are encouraged to email Shalini Nag at shalini.nag@evidasolve.com, using subject line: Restaurant.

Consumers who would be interested in more information about a TiffinTime lunch subscription can also email their inquiries to Nag with the subject line "Subscribe."

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