Changing the landscape of casual dining with Wellfound Foods

By Fran Alvarado, Food Policy and Sustainability Leadership Certificate student 

On a beautiful sunny day during ASU’s Food Policy and Sustainability Leadership immersive week, the founder and CEO of Wellfound Foods, Sarah Frimpong, joined us to talk about their local business and how they are transforming the food world in DC. There was a need for better packed food in a small café on Capitol Hill and they wanted to create the difference. 

Wellfound Foods approaches making food that is sustainably sourced. They put care into what they are making and into what the company is doing, while meeting a wider range of flavor profiles. This fast casual dining experience includes items such as snacks, sides, salads, and sandwiches. Their menu is made to eat cold. 

Wellfound Foods created an idea called Smart Markets. This was a way to increase access to their healthy grab-and-go food packages. This proved to be what they needed to be doing. At the beginning of this year, they had 4 vending machines and now have 13 operating machines. They wanted to be fresher, taste better, and meet more taste profiles. To accomplish this goal, they brought in a chef to help revamp the menu which has proven to be successful. An app in the machine helps you filter what you like to eat, making it easier to choose healthier food options.  

The business was started in 2015 with a kick-starter and since then has grown. They brought in an angel investor to help build capital and expand capacity. Their first largest client was Peet’s Coffee who gave them 25 locations to start and helped them improve the business. One of the biggest things they had to do as a company was invest in a food safety manager. 

Frimpong informed the students about how they handled food waste through a 3rd party vendor who focused on managing waste prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are currently no food waste practices but they plan to figure that out. In the past they donated their food waste, and they plan on getting that program up and running up again. 

Wellfound Foods puts everything they make into the machine and then learns what people want to buy. Frimpong’s general rule of thumb is people like what they understand. They try to find a balance between what is going to capture people and what is going to excite them. Looking into the future, they may expand into home delivery, but for now their focus is vending machines.

On the behalf of the entire ASU Food Policy and Sustainability Leadership Cohort, we would like to extend our sincere appreciation to Sarah Frimpong for taking the time to meet us and transforming the world of casual dining.

This blog is part of a series from the July 2021 Washington D.C. Immersive program of the Food Policy and Sustainability Leadership Graduate Certificate Program. Students met with federal food and agriculture focused officials at USDA, the White House and other agencies, Congressional leadership, industry leaders and other important policy stakeholders.