Your Haas Network

The Internet of Lunch

The typical office vending machine is turning into a culinary adventure of a much healthier and savory sort, thanks to Megan Mokri’s company, Byte.

Customers simply swipe a credit card to yield a buffet of refrigerated gourmet fare for those long on hunger and short on time. Think carrot ginger soup and chicken gyros—fresh, organic, locally sourced, and at prices ranging from $4 to $9 a meal. “It’s like having a little Whole Foods in your office,” says Mokri.

She and her husband and co-founder, Lee Mokri, got the idea for Byte while running a meal-delivery service in Marin County called 180Eats. Byte launched in 2015, and now, with $5.5 million in funding, the startup supplies and stocks Internet-connected vending machines for some 200 companies, including Amazon, Chevron, Williams-Sonoma, and Tesla.

Key to the Mokris’ success was discovering the latest in smart refrigeration technology. Byte’s Internet-connected hardware and software delivers real-time data on inventory levels, the remaining shelf life of stocked foods, and individual preferences.

This instant feedback loop allows Byte to customize its offerings from one location to the next. It can even offer dynamic pricing—say, a “happy hour” to spur demand and avoid spoilage or discounts on a customer’s favorite foods. Employers, for their part, get the next best thing to a company cafeteria.

“We are democratizing the process of getting fresh food into buildings,” says Mokri. Local food vendors, too, benefit from reaching consumers directly. And unsold meals—more than 100,000 to date—are donated to local food banks. “Our real-time data allows us to do things that no other retailer has ever done before,” she says. —KC

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