Fresh Corner Café

Fresh Corner Café seeks to solve the problem of lack of accessibility to high quality food for lower income Detroiters by delivering prepackaged, healthy and delicious meals to corner stores all around the city.

The idea was first born from a class at University of Michigan called Social Venture Creation, where the founder, Noam Kimelman, sought to create a revenue generating model that also addressed a social concern. Their team saw food access in Detroit as an important problem. Inadequate access to healthy food leads to higher ratfresh corner cafees of disease and obesity. Noam’s team noticed that Detroit lacked a sufficient amount of grocery stores but did have a lot of corner stores, especially in lower income areas, and they came up with the idea of stocking these corner stores with healthy and convenient meals.

After a few iterations of the company, running focus groups, and conducting surveys with the community, they realized that people really valued convenience. So they moved from providing prepackaged ingredients which people could cook themselves to ready-made meals like salads and wraps. Fresh Corner Café works with three separate restaurants in Detroit to supply their healthy and delicious meals: Food, Peaches, and Green; Brooklyn Street Local; and Lunchtime Detroit.

In addition to selling their product wholesale to convenience stores and gas stations, Fresh Corner Café also provides a catering service and a workplace café service.  A wide range of consumers seek out Fresh Corner Café for its catering service including universities, companies in Detroit, and nonprofit and community groups. The workplace café service is an innovative self-serve fresh vending concept in which a company has a cooler of Fresh Corner Café meals and employees simply take what they want and pay based on an honor code.

Noam definitely views the social good that Fresh Corner Café delivers as a competitive business strategy. His company was born from a social mission and operates everyday with it in mind: to ensure that all Detroiters have immediate access to a high quality, delicious meal wherever they eat, work and play.  Although they may have slightly higher catering prices than comparable companies, Noam finds that organizations are willing to pay slightly more because they know they are supporting positive change in the community.

Noam has found that changing people’s food habits is hard. People are used to fast food and trying to get them to pay a little bit more for a higher quality meal has been a challenge. His team has sought to find the people in Detroit who want to eat healthier but have not previously had any affordable options. Increased brand awareness about Fresh Corner occurs at a community level through word of mouth and through postcards that they send to businesses and other organizations in Detroit. Fresh Corner works with the food community in Detroit to stay engaged with the real people they are trying to help.

Fresh Corner Café meals can be found in 20 corner stores in Detroit and in 7 workplaces. Looking forward, Noam wants to increase the amount of workplaces to 20 to create a one to one ratio with the corner stores. The catering service and the workplace vending are more profitable and Noam sees expansion in those areas as an opportunity to lower the costs of the ready-made meals in corner stores and therefore increase the availability of their product.

Wesley Zhu

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