Forget old school canteens and freeze-dried soup from the coffee machine dispenser. Start-up Frigo Loco has re-invented corporate catering: it provides a full range of fresh foods and sustainable snacks to companies concerned about the welfare of their employees.
“We bring more value to companies, with a unique, flexible and local catering offer”, explains Dimitri van Meerbeeck and Mathieu Verhaeghe, the two founders of Frigo Loco, winners of BE Circular 2020. The first was a former Exki, Pies from Françoise, Neuhaus and Le Pain Quotidien. The second went through The World Bank, before launching the cold-pressed juice brand Full of Good.
Since 2020, their Brussels start-up has been revisiting the concept of canteens, thanks to its smart refrigerators. The principle? Employees can find fresh, nutritious and tasty meals and snacks here. All they have to do is open the refrigerator with their bank card or smartphone. Choose what they want to eat. And the menu is played, 24 hours a day! The icing on the cake: the Frigo Loco app lets them know the ingredients and nutritional value of each dish.
New: a zero waste module
Along with its smart fridges, the sustainable neo-canteen has developed new modules: a nut bar, furniture with coffee and/or water fountain, a version with microwaves or even a zero waste formula, first in Belgium . Meals are served in glass containers, which can be returned after use and washed by Frigo Loco. As for unsold items, they are redistributed to local unity refrigerators.
The FoodTech company has also partnered with several local chefs and food players: the organic and vegetarian restaurant Le Botaniste (Ghent and Brussels), the artisanal and local roaster Torrefactory (Walloon Brabant), the healthy caterer BoxBunny (Brussels) and Djar (Ghent). Everyone favors healthy, local and seasonal ingredients, from sustainable agriculture.
Every day, the Frigo Loco team arrives to supply its refrigerators and takes the opportunity to stock up on coffee or nuts, to collect dirty dishes … An optimization of resources, making it possible to rationalize travel – by cargo bike for the last kilometer, from next September – but also be effective in terms of prospecting.
“These partnerships allow us to combine our strengths and our networks, so that as many companies as possible discover our respective products”, the two entrepreneurs explain. For The Botanist restaurant, for example, this is a great way to publicize its sustainable food project outside its walls. And to increase its popularity in the heart of the target.
Development in Flanders
Already established in Brussels, Frigo Loco targets other cities in Belgium. It was about to arrive in Ghent, assisted by caterer Djar. “The ambition is to install 150 new refrigerators in companies, schools, hospitals and residential buildings and present in 4 cities within 2 years”, the duo of entrepreneurs confessed. “Frigo Loco is therefore looking for new partnerships, including chefs and food companies, in the cities of Liège, Antwerp, and Luxembourg.”
The concept of a sustainable neo-canteen has already attracted some companies, in sectors as varied as consultancy, pharmaceutical industry or leisure. “Some of them are located in a zone, where any sandwich takes 20 minutes by car. Others are already in transition in their layout and they don’t yet have a canteen that can accommodate their employees. ”
Frigo Loco’s approach makes it possible to rethink its operating costs. Available by subscription, its connected refrigerators are up to 75% cheaper than a traditional catering solution, which is now no longer used in general telework.
The advantages are legion: space optimization, no dedicated staff or investment in kitchen equipment, time savings and employee satisfaction, total flexibility in schedules, easy set-up, all-around service, local products and environmentally responsible …
During the post-Covid era, this solution makes it possible to respond to companies ’new challenges: employees are already accustomed to teleworking and no longer want to travel every day to the office. When they do, it is mainly to enjoy a pleasant experience and get to know their colleagues.
“Our next-generation catering service saves them wasting time at lunch. It allows them to chat any time of the day in a friendly setting.” At Frigo Loco, priority is given to team spirit and group cohesion, two factors of motivation and competence that are difficult to maintain in a conference call …