Before the coronavirus pandemic, Andy Harrison made his living feeding students at Collegiate School.
Now, after COVID-19 caused the school’s food service director to be laid off, Harrison is making a business out of keeping those same kids fed as the virus continues to upend operations in the private school industry.
He and business partner Jay DeVoe are launching Boxed + Bagged RVA, a startup food company that offers prepared lunches for local students, primarily at Collegiate and St. Catherine’s School.
The duo hatched the idea after learning the two West End schools won’t offer lunch as they normally would this year due to safety precautions. Collegiate will not offer lunch service at all this academic year. St. Catherine’s will not offer lunch service on campus through December, though it could resume the service in the spring.
Those moves mean students will have to bring their own lunches. Harrison is betting there will be many parents unwilling or unable to add that to their morning routines.
“I’ve been part of the Collegiate community for 11 years now and served that community. Now I see a need. They have 1,700 students and not all their parents are going to want to pack lunch,” Harrison said.
Boxed + Bagged, which launches Sept. 1, offers three- and five-day meal plans. There’s also a per-day option. Rates for multi-day plans range from about $562 a year to $966 a year based on frequency and whether the student is an elementary, middle or high school student.
While the company targets students at Collegiate and St. Catherine’s specifically, it’s available to students at other schools.
“Is (Collegiate and St. Catherine’s) our main focus? Sure. Those are two areas with a ton of students who don’t have lunch options. We’d love if Freeman kids want to order lunch, we can work that out. But they’re serving lunch at Freeman so there’s competition there I don’t have at Collegiate or St. Catherine’s,” he said.
The company, which isn’t affiliated with Collegiate or St. Catherine’s, has leased two locations to use as distribution points for lunch pickups: 122 Granite Ave. and 9609 Gayton Road. The company rents kitchen space at Richmond Food Truck Hub in South Richmond.
Harrison sees Boxed + Bagged as a temporary gig. He expects the company to operate for around a year, as it will likely lose momentum when the schools reintroduce lunch service. He hopes to return to his role with Collegiate once the pandemic subsides.
Harrison plans to hire employees but isn’t sure what his headcount will look like until he has a better sense of subscriptions. About $75,000 to $100,000 has been invested in Boxed + Bagged and Harrison’s other venture with DeVoe, a food truck called Devoedid Events.
Boxed + Bagged isn’t the only local food industry player to look for opportunity in the wake of the pandemic’s disruptions.
Mike Love, owner of The Professional Bartending Academy, recently launched the biweekly subscription service Bar Chef Cocktail Kits. Kevin Liu, who owns The Jasper and Carytown Cupcakes, has turned the former into a ghost kitchen with nightly pop-up food concepts.