It’s no secret that giving employees access to fresh, healthy food at work can boost both productivity and morale. But for many startups and smaller companies, running a corporate kitchen is too much work—and too much money. That’s where Ripe comes in.
The Manhattan-based meal service aims to serve as a more convenient, higher-quality alternative to the typical corporate cafeteria. “Running a kitchen is an entire business in its own,” says Ripe Chief Product Officer Zoe Colivas. “We now see companies wanting to provide food to their employees but not wanting the headache of building out a cafeteria or kitchen in their office space.”
Businesses without dedicated cafeterias have long had the option of ordering directly from restaurants, or more recently, utilizing tech-based platforms that order and deliver restaurant food for them. But Ripe, founded in 2014, spotted a gap in the market. “We wondered, why is there no one that’s doing everything from A to Z?” Colivas says. Rather than just pick up food from another restaurant (or make meals and outsource them to a delivery service), Ripe controls the entire prep and delivery process. “We create our own menus, we source the food, we make it in house and we deliver it to our clients,” says Colivas.
Ripe offers clients a single curated breakfast and lunch menu every day. Breakfasts tend to be heavy on lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, antioxidants and healthy fats—like frittata or scrambled tofu, chia pudding, seasonal berries or an avocado toast bar. For lunch, there’s always a leafy green salad, a grain salad, a vegetable side, a red meat entrée, a white meat or fish entrée and a vegan entrée. On a recent October day, Ripe served hearty turkey chili, braised brisket, roasted butternut squash soup with pesto, autumn farro, and kale, beet and candied walnut salad. Another big hit: The Korean-style bowl menu with lettuce wrap bulgogi-style beef, gochujang wings, crispy tofu with mushrooms, spicy salad, sticky rice, plus Korean style hot sauce and toppings.
Colivas, a certified health coach, curates a roster of dishes that are both wholesome and on-trend. She’ll often turn to food blogs, magazines or local restaurant menus for inspiration. “We don’t believe in counting calories. Rather, we use high-quality oils and organic produce for Dirty Dozen ingredients, and we eliminate refined sugar,” she says.
Ripe bills itself as a farm-to-office concept, so it sources ingredients from local, organic growers when possible. That sort of commitment to sustainability translates to higher costs, but Ripe has been able to keep their meal plans affordable. “We’re feeding around 10,000 people a week and are ordering at volume. We’re able to negotiate with different partners to maintain those standards to get a price that works for us,” Colivas explains.
Most of Ripe’s clients receive meals three to five days each week. The majority are on a subscription service, but non-subscribers can place orders up to 48 hours in advance. Because of Ripe’s emphasis on farm-fresh fare, ingredients are delivered to the company’s Lower East Side kitchen the same morning that they’ll be prepped. Then the prepped and cooked meals are packaged and sent out to clients the next day. Ripe relies on freelance brand ambassadors to deliver the food to clients within a specified 30-minute window and set it up on site. Large orders are delivered via Ripe’s company van, while smaller ones make the trip with Uber.
Serving a single meal for all makes it so employees don’t have to spend time worrying about what to have for lunch or where to get it from. But Ripe’s slogan, People Who Eat Together Grow Together, speaks to a larger mission. “Eating together creates community within the workplace,” Colivas explains. “It’s not about heading out to lunch on your own. You eat lunch with your co-workers, who become your friends, which then trickles into other benefits for companies in terms of retaining employees and growth.”
Ripe currently delivers to workplaces in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, and has its eyes set on trendy West coast markets like Los Angeles and San Francisco. And beyond that? Colivas believes that the company’s full-service model will one day become the norm nationwide. “Office and operations managers are typically the ones organizing food orders,” she says. “They say Ripe has been helpful because it’s super hands off. They don’t have to worry about whether the food is going to arrive. And it’s healthier and offers more options than the typical cafeteria.”