Launching a shared mission: good food on every table

This weekend, Everytable launches. This is the story of enso’s part in that.

David Foster + Sam Polk @ Everytable in South LA. Image Coley Brown for New York Times

As a mission-driven creative studio, we at enso are fortunate to see a lot of exciting, purpose-oriented projects and meet visionaries with bright ideas and a burning passion. As a group of optimists, this can be a double edged sword: it fuels us and gets us excited to do more, but we can’t work on every new venture our hearts leap for.

But sometimes there’s a perfect confluence of all the ingredients for massive impact, and we just have to find a way to work on it. An urgent need; a powerful idea; passionate, heart-led leaders who are also incredibly smart, super pragmatic leaders. When we met Sam Polk and David Foster, and later, Anar Joshi, they had all that and more.

What at the time was a project tentatively called Harvest, was a huge vision: fresh, healthy, affordable food for everyone, including people living in food deserts, initially in LA but with a desire to serve people everywhere. Sam and David know the challenges of food deserts first hand having built their nonprofit, Groceryships, to provide education, groceries and peer support to families.

Three things stood out from our first meeting:

  • The scale of the need: look at a map of LA, and every healthy food brand you can think of exists only in wealthier areas.
  • The scale of the opportunity: look at a map of LA, and every fast food chain you can think of exists in huge numbers in poorer areas. It’s not that selling food at low prices is impossible, it’s that the food that’s sold is not good food.
  • The smarts of the team: as former finance guys Sam and David have been incredibly smart in analyzing this problem and creating a new solution. They understand fast food chain models and economics, and they’ve taken the best from those models and improved upon them with healthy ingredients, a hub-and-spoke central kitchen model, and pricing appropriate to each neighborhood. (For more on Sam’s life and Wall Street journey, read his new book, For the Love of Money).

Although Sam and David knew they could design and run the operations successfully, they had a strong feeling that mission-driven brand and story would be critical to their success. Just as TOMS had effectively competed with traditional shoe companies with the power of its brand and purpose, Sam and David wanted to compete with fast food chains and win.

Our work with the team began with an emotional listening exercise: we sat with parents in South LA and heard about their challenges with food, budget realities and about the kind of food they really wanted to give their families. Something that really stuck with us from this process: for their families to embrace new food, it’s not enough just to be healthier — it has to be healthy and joyful. To compete with Fast Food, we have to be every bit as light, bright, tasty and fun.

After listening, we conducted a day-long collaborative design sprint, with team members from enso, Harvest, architectural design firm Gensler and a group of awesome advisors and experts. At the beginning of this day, Sam read us a quote from Father Greg Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries, that left a huge imprint on all of us: could we create a brand that truly embodied a circle of compassion? We spent time aligning on the vision for success, we talked about what people really need right now, and dozens of different ways we could position this new brand to resonate with people.

After the design sprint, our strategy and creative teams got to work. We wanted a brand that represented the joy of good food. And we wanted a brand identity and feeling that wouldn’t be alien in the culture of South LA, but could represent the people each store would serve. A brand that could feel accessible to everyone, and bridge cultures.

And most importantly: we wanted a brand that could serve as a beacon not just for a company, but for a shared mission.

Something that people could not just buy from, but join, for the good of themselves, their family and community.

We looked at hundreds of names. Choosing a name is hard, and multiple times we landed on something only to decide something else could be better. Through many rounds, Everytable kept coming back for us.

Every. Table. A two-word mission statement. A mission that could be baked into every representation of the brand.

And we wanted a simple line that could represent what it’s all about. A tagline, but a tagline that people could get behind: a mantra for a shared mission. This is something a traditional fast food company could not do: their taglines are all about them. Everytable stands for something bigger. Every body. Every block. Everytable.

We looked at the native culture of South LA, a highly diverse, vibrant neighborhood where the first store would be. We looked at the visual language of fast food. We wanted a brand that matched the community’s vibrancy, and that felt as fun and accessible as a modern fast food chain. Bold type. Color blocks. A lot of photography of neighborhood people. An iconography system that stems from the brand’s logotype, and can be used across every brand touchpoint, from packaging to store graphics to web icons.

We thought a lot about how Everytable shows up in the world. It feels good to eat good, and it feels good to do good, so we wanted the whole experience to feel like a celebration, or even better, actually be a celebration.

Everytable is a celebration.
Everytable is a celebration of fresh and great-tasting food.
Everytable is a celebration of what that good food does for us inside and out.
Everytable is a celebration of the local neighborhood and all its awesome folks.
Everytable is a celebration of people doing things together for the highest good of each other.

We created a brand narrative and guide that’s used to train each new partner and associate. It captures the spirit and informs what the experience is like when anyone interacts with Everytable, anywhere. We want to show up and delight neighbors at every opportunity

At Everytable, we don’t “advertise” or “promote”, we celebrate what’s great about us, our food, our neighbors, and our neighborhood and invite the people we love (and we love everyone) to join in that celebration.

Working closely with Gensler, we co-created a vision for a space that feels inviting, accessible, and strikes the balance of feeling like it belongs in the community while feeling like something fresh and new.

We’re delighted to see Everytable launch this weekend, and proud to be part of this long term shared mission to put good, healthy food on every table.