What is the story behind Mealshare?
Mealshare was created with the goal of helping youth in need, and providing meals to the less fortunate. What started as a concept for a fully functioning restaurant, grew to become something bigger in scope. The original concept was centered around the idea that guests would come in to dine at the restaurant (just like normal!) but their purchases would help fund meals that could be given out to those in need. We knew this would have an impact and could be very successful - however, our impact and success would be limited to one location (and our expertise in the kitchen is focused on cereal and toast).
After lots of thought, we pivoted into creating a program that can be adopted by any restaurant, which can ultimately have a much bigger impact.
When did you start thinking about your brand name and how did you settle on Mealshare?
Once we decided to take the leap and start the business we sat down to try and pick a name. We are big believers in choosing a simple name that explains what the company does - especially with a totally new concept. After much discussion and deliberation, we thought the most simple and easy to understand name was Mealshare.
How did you get the domain name Mealshare.ca for your brand? Why did you select that one exactly?
Since we're from Canada, it made sense to use a .ca domain. And we always think it's best to get the shortest domain name possible - ideally it's just the business name. Mealshare.ca happened to be available, so we snagged it.
How has owning Mealshare.ca affected your business? Do you own any other domain names?
When we first started promoting our digital handles, we received a lot of messages from individuals who thought we were a meal prep or meal delivery service, and will still (sometimes) continue to get tagged in these types of posts.
It took a lot of brand awareness and education to showcase that Mealshare is actually a non-profit, aimed at ending youth hunger. We did a lot of events, media pushes for launches, education with our partners, blogs, etc. to get people to know that Mealshare is a NFP - and we can see the impact of those efforts now. We appreciate owning a domain that is simply our business name - it makes it easy for people to find us!
Who is your target customer and how is your brand name helping in reaching them?
We focus on working with well respected and leading-edge restaurants. These restaurants are typically advocates of buying local, farm-to-table products and are frequently showcased in the city's best places to dine. They are deeply about their ingredients, their staff, their customers, and the community. Oftentimes these restaurants are looking for an interactive, innovative way to get involved and align values with their restaurant, team & customers.
We find the best way to reach these restaurants is by introductions from our current restaurant partners. The restaurant community is incredibly small and tight-knit in most cities - it seems like the best chefs and restaurateurs in any given city know each other. Warm introductions go miles in these circumstances!
How do you keep your brand consistent across different channels online and offline?
Because our brand and program is across the country, one of our biggest struggles is keeping our brand and content consistent both offline and online. We’ve had to streamline a lot of procedures to make sure our digital presence is aligned. Each city creates the majority of their own content, and from there it is sent to our VP of Marketing to edit and schedule. Each CL is also given resources like templates, branding sessions, and guidelines so all of our content can look similar, reflect their market (and our pillars), and positively reflect the brand. We use a platform that is vertically integrated into our marketing Platforms called Planoly, which helps us align our content, edit the feed, and make it look aesthetically pleasing.
Our traditional printed materials also focus on the same key messages that we share across our digital platforms, to really hit the messaging home. And that is all designed and executed by one group of people to ensure brand alignment.
Then from a restaurant perspective, we offer training sessions with all of our partners, educating them on the program, giving them talking points, and sending through videos. We also have our partners out to volunteer if they would like too - which also really helps them understand the program and messaging because they are experiencing it first hand.
Has the pandemic affected your company in any way? What has changed since?
The pandemic has severely affected Mealshare and caused a lot of our restaurant partners to either scale back or slow down. The average number of meals shared per restaurant has been cut down, and unfortunately, a lot of our partners across the country have had to close. It’s also affected the industry from the client/diner side as well; there are less people going out to dine, less people willing to spend money on food that comes from different places outside of their home.
On top of that, our charity partners have seen the opposite - the need for support through donations and meals has severely increased.
Although this might sound bleak, we are incredibly grateful for the continued support we have received from our charities, restaurants, and sponsors - even if it is in a reduced capacity.
What do you do to make sure your marketing is effective?
We are very actively engaged in our channels to help push our messages and amplify our reach. In each market, we also have an ambassador program that we utilize to help create awareness for our partners (individuals who are active in the hospitality industry help promote our partners and share their content). Mealshare has also been very fortunate to have partnerships with bigger media and PR companies that have bigger audiences to help communicate our messaging and partners through giveaways, articles, blog posts, and other ads that can help our SEO and website visits.
We also try to make sure we give each market a feature on our pages - varied and decided by how many partner restaurants they have. On top of that, each Community Leader is encouraged and empowered to go be a brand champion in their community - whether that be for events, volunteering, going on our social media handles and sharing about their experiences, or engaging with the media.
As a NFP we have a low marketing budget, so we really rely on the creativity of our team to make sure it is effective.
What would your advice be to entrepreneurs who are just starting out, in general, and when it comes to branding and naming?
Entrepreneurship is tough, so my biggest piece of advice is to find something you're passionate about and then keep grinding and stick with it! A great quote for entrepreneurs just starting out to think about is from Wes Jackson: "If your life's work can be accomplished in your lifetime, you're not thinking big enough".
As far as naming and branding, I'd suggest picking a name that truly reflects what your business does, is easily communicated across multiple channels, and can directly help your SEO and optimization. It's tough to capture attention in the digital world, so making it as easy as possible to communicate to your potential customers and clients is imperative. You ideally want to capture the essence of what you are offering, keep it simple and concise, and have slogans & taglines that directly reflect your vision and company.
Where do you see your business in the future and how does your brand name fit into that vision?
Our ultimate goal at Mealshare is to help end youth hunger. We want to be able to sit in rocking chairs, when we're old and grey, and explain to our grandkids that youth hunger USED to be a really big problem in our world. We're hoping they won't really know what we're talking about because the world they live in doesn't have youth hunger. We'll keep husting to share meals until that happens. In the meantime, we think the name Mealshare embodies all that quite well!
We hope the above information will help you in making informed decisions about your brand. What can we do to empower your brand? Get in touch, we are always happy to chat.
Find out more about Mealshare.