Bellevue startup Airlift answers age old question: What’s for lunch?
When Airlift founders Sandeep Phadke and Minda Brusse set out to start their business, they were trying to solve a problem. They wanted to find a way to bring fresh food into office settings of varying sizes at price points that made sense for the employer and employees.
With large companies like Google offering in-house cafeterias for their workers, more and more people expect to find fresh food options in the workplace — something that smaller businesses haven’t easily been able to offer in the past.
“There are so many companies that are too small for a cafe, but employees are increasingly expecting more food in the workforce,” Brusse explained. “They care about what food is available, and they expect their employer to solve the problem.”
Different than traditional and even more modern kiosk-style vending machines stocked primarily with pre-packaged snacks, Airlift brings a variety of customized, fresh food options to the workplace at a low cost to the employer and employees.
“Instead of coming at it from a vending perspective, we come at it with technology that we’ve developed and own. Then we buy a kiosk, put it on an iPad, and make it really economical to do a self-checkout,” Brusse said. “Technology is unlocking the opportunity to give people what they want, not just a vending machine without glass.”
Brusse said Airlift can accommodate nearly any size office, but it works best if there are at least 50 regular employees in the space where the market is located.
“That’s so we can turn over enough items to make it so that we can really get feedback and engagement,” she said. “It’s hard to dial it in for 10 people.”
After Airlift determines the kind of configuration an office needs – where the kiosk will be located, whether or not beverages will be offered, and other logistics – Airlift does a tasting with the company to find out what the employees want to eat. The experience is one that engages the employees and gives them some control over what food items are offered in their office.
What Phadke and Brusse have found since launching two years ago, however, is that Airlift is more than a company’s answer to good food in the workplace. Airlift is removing a common, everyday worry: What to have for lunch.
“Good food in the workplace makes sense because it takes a worry away,” Brusse said. “This frees you up to go out to lunch when you want, and maybe it’s spending five extra minutes at home with your kid instead of making lunch.”
With convenient, fresh food options that are customized based on employee feedback, Airlift is, according to Brusse, creating happier work environments with increased employee satisfaction.
Brusse said Airlift is currently in about 11 offices around the Seattle area, but has plans for growth in the coming months. “We should have 20 more launched by November,” she said. “Then we’re looking at another 25 after that.”