With a Little Imagination, New Subscription Services Build Community


Joel Tomfohr

– VOL. 13

Before you download Grubhub or DoorDash for your next Friday night meal, consider subscription services that offer a more immersive culinary experience by partnering with local restaurants in your neighborhood. New service platforms like Table22 and EatOkra are reimagining the takeout model, and they’re taking off.

It’s no secret that the restaurant industry has been among the hardest hit by the pandemic. Early on, when lockdowns first became a part of life, restaurateur and television personality David Chang guessed that 90% of restaurants across the country would be put out of business. In New York City, according to The New Yorker, around 45% of service industry workers in the city lost their jobs in 2020. In Europe, where restaurants have received help like rent-abatement, solutions are more straightforward. Here in the United States, the industry has had to become creative.

Image of subscription services neighborhood impact

In DTLA, Sonoratown is a family-owned taco shop beloved neighborhood locals and Angelinos everywhere. Thankfully, they deliver.

Subscription services platforms like Table22 have stepped in to fill the gap. The concept is simple: members pay a monthly amount and receive items like bottles of wine, specialty cocktails, pantry goods, and three-course meals. According to Bloomberg, Table22 helps places diversify income during the pandemic, strengthening their businesses. A new model, Table22 has around 100 clients throughout the United States. Becoming a member reimagines the dining experience in the convenience and comfort of your own home and supports fading restaurant industries.

Another subscription service, EatOkra, founded in 2016 by Anthony Edwards Jr and Janique Bradley, connects consumers with local, Black-owned restaurants throughout the country. The idea came to the married couple when they wanted to explore local restaurants in their new neighborhood in Brooklyn. Based on their shared experience, they designed the EatOkra app. According to TravelNoire Magazine, Black-owned businesses were especially hard hit by the start of the pandemic, with 41% “forced to close.”

Image of subscription services neighborhood impact

In Kansas City, a property owner retrofitted an underused warehouse, making it into a multi-use community space for residents.

EatOakra provides an essential service that started local, and has quickly expanded, connecting “approximately 350,000 people with Black-owned restaurants across the country”. The company’s goal is to “build out an online marketplace and add in-app ordering”. As EatOakra expands, they demonstrate how new business models, like subscription services, can tackle systemic issues and inequities.  One longstanding challenge Black and Brown-owned businesses have historically faced is a lack of startup funding due to a myriad of factors like the intergenerational wealth gap and loan discrimination. By creating new avenues for customers to discover and patronize black-owned restaurants, EatOkra gives them a boost of local support.

 Table22 and EatOkra use their apps to offer experiences that support local businesses. And their model is succeeding. People are in search of experiences that bring them closer to their neighborhoods, and more importantly—their neighbors. If these businesses have you feeling inspired, take a spin through the Marketplace app to connect with other local businesses, many offering subscriptions to everything from locally roasted coffee in KC, to farm-to-table produce in Bushwick.