Every morning in Shanghai and across China, thousands of people line up to get their daily Jianbing fix. The Jianbing breakfast is iconic, traditional, and deep history in China.
The Jianbing also happens to be delicious.
Reuben Shorser discovered Jianbing living in Shanghai. Tadesh Inagaki discovered Jianbing while visiting Reuben. Together they saw a culinary and business opportunity in bringing Jianbing from the streets of Shanghai to the streets of New York.
They crafted their own recipes (street-tested in Shanghai and NYC) and in 2016 launched Jianbing Company as a weekend pop-up. A year later, they opened their first full time location at Dekalb Market Hall in Downtown Brooklyn.
Things were going well; the company was growing and then…
They were launching new locations and then COVID-19 hit, and all restaurant activity ground to a halt.
The restaurant business is a tough place when a pandemic hits, as we have all seen.
But it is not just restaurants; stemming the spread of the virus has crushed many businesses nationally and globally. The NY Times quotes Yelp as estimating that 66,000 US businesses have closed permanently since March 1. Researchers at Harvard suggest this number is higher, 110,000, and climbing.
Human nature is to fear the change and the uncertainty that the situation brings. It is easier to blame the economy and give up. At least for a while.
Which is why Jianbing Company’s story is so inspiring.
In the worst possible situation, but with some money from the SBA and the PPP loan, Tadesh and Reuben conceived something new. Jianbing Company, the restaurant, wasn’t going to open soon. They realized that their kitchen and many others were sitting fallow, even as demand for their product grew. They also saw a community need to help food-insecure families.
So, they started 1:1 Foods. 1:1 Foods is a mission-driven social business focused on creating a market for local food businesses while addressing food insecurity in Brooklyn.
Their goal is to deliver the creativity and diversity of Brooklyn’s food landscape to your home. They do this by working with diverse restaurants and chefs to create unique and exciting meal kits. You order, they deliver, and you have an exceptional culinary experience in your own kitchen.
It is a tasty break from frozen pizza and Hamburger Helper for those of us ready to not cook.
They’re also working to address the food security issue. For every meal sold, they deliver one “nutrient-rich, culturally appropriate ready-to-heat meal” to a family in need.
Bombas Socks championed this business model in socks, it is great to see it applied to food.
As Tadesh describes their venture, they are developing their model “both ambitiously and thoughtfully, so that we can do real good in the community while creating a sustainable business driven by the sale of delicious, unique, and local products.”
The business is just getting started, but they have an ambitious plan to start with 400-600 donated meals per week and scale from there.
They held their first Community Day (when the team gets together to produce and deliver our donated meals) in late June, during which they produced and delivered 364 meals to local Sunset Park families in partnership with CFL Food Pantry. Their second Community Day was just last week, an additional 536 meals to CFL.
If you are interested in learning more about 1:1 Foods, check out www.1to1foods.com.
You can also support them in the soft launch of their meal kit program by ordering food here: www.1to1foods.com/shop. Just remember that they are in beta and working out the kinks, so expect there to be a kink or two.
They will send out a survey for your feedback so that you can help them get better and turn their vision into reality.
The saying goes that you can never escape death and taxes. I’d add that you can never avoid change. And with change is the inspiring ever-present force of human ingenuity.
I look forward to seeing how 1:1 Foods develops. And I really hope that one of these meals includes a Jianbing. If you haven’t tried one, you should, they are amazing.
Do you know of other inspirational stories?
I am looking for more stories of how entrepreneurs are reinventing themselves as a result of COVID-19 and the economic havoc it has wrought. If you have any, please contact me with this form here. (This just helps me avoid a SPAM onslaught…).