In the beginning of the pandemic, while restaurants were figuring out how to shift their businesses away from onsite dining, Sam Bernstein was dealing with his own pivot. His startup, LoftSmart, was a real estate platform designed for college students to find apartment rentals; when universities around the country shut down onsite classes, his business dried up. “When schools went virtual, it was an existential crisis for us,” he says. “We were in a similar position to restaurants: a team trying to figure out what to do.”
At the time, Bernstein found himself inspired by the things restaurants were doing to stay afloat: selling meal kits, pantry items for retail, family meals. So, using his existing software as a jumping-off point, he and his team created Table22: a site where diners in cities across the country can sign up for monthly “subscriptions” to their favorite restaurants. What those subscriptions actually are varies from place to place; subscribers pay for things like family meals, wine clubs, and pantry items designed by these restaurants, with the ability to opt out any given month. Now, Table22 offers subscriptions in more than 60 cities — including Portland.
Table22’s Portland offerings are currently limited to four Portland restaurants and a food cart: Maurice, Sweedeedee, Willow, Magna, and Matta. Sweedeedee, for example, allows subscribers to choose between a natural wine club or a pasta and provisions share; the latter is something like a pantry CSA, a box with things like imported pasta, house-made sauces, and things like cheeses and olives. Willow, similarly, opted for a wine-club-like subscription, which comes with an item from the Willow pantry.
Overall, though, most of the Portland subscriptions are more like family meals or dinners — Maurice will be doing monthly meals with fika and wine add-ons, for instance, with dishes like poulet au pain “chicken pot pie” and chef Kristen Murray’s famous black pepper cheesecakes. Magna, on the other hand, is offering monthly at-home kamayan dinners, feasts of Dungeness crab stewed in coconut milk, or oxtail adobo.
“We went, ‘What can we provide that we’re not doing at the restaurant? What’s something that would be unique and exciting that also had success when we tried it on our own?’” Magna chef and owner Carlo Lamagna says. “The fun thing about a kamayan is that the menu is always evolving. If Dungeness crab is in season, we’ll do a crab kamayan; if we get whole pigs, we can do a lechon kamayan. We always want to keep in mind that it could get old real quick, and we want to keep things exciting for people, too.”
In the early days of the pandemic, Matta owners Richard and Sophia Le started selling full-scale family meals, large-scale orders of things like fried chicken, thit kho, and stir-fries with rice, salads, and sides. After a while, the logistics of pulling off those family meals — managing the orders, pickup times, gauging ingredients — became too tough, and the Les went back to offering takeout and walk-ups. For Table22, Matta will bring back its family meals, ranging from make-your-own spring roll kits to its wildly popular “VFC,” or Việt Kiều fried chicken with coconut mashed potatoes and nuoc cham gravy; all of Matta’s meals will also come with pantry items and dessert. “I missed being able to sell a family meal, so people could enjoy it with their family,” Richard Le says. “That was our whole premise in the beginning anyways. To bring that back? That’s cool.”
Subscriptions have various perks, from access to recipes to first dibs on tickets to events, with pickup and some delivery; however, members can also pause their subscriptions if the month’s offering doesn’t appeal. Table22 handles organizing the orders, payments, and subscriptions, and the restaurants simply make and package the meals for subscribers. The company takes a 10 percent cut of the gross sales, with the rest going to the restaurant. “It’s not like they’re gouging us, which is great,” Lamagna says. “It just works out; everybody wins.”
Table22 plans to grow in Portland, with the goal of offering dozens of Portland memberships via the app; for a full list of subscriptions, visit Table22’s website.
• Table22 [Official]
• Matta membership [Official]
• Sweedeedee membership [Official]
• Magna membership [Official]
• Willow membership [Official]
• Maurice membership [Official]
• Takeout Meal Subscriptions Are Helping Restaurants Find Stability in a Harsh Winter [E]