Creating a brand with a conscience: the Save on Meats Meal Token Program


I don’t know about you, but after I have had an amazing food experience, before I have even wiped the grease of my fingers, I get this uncontrollable urge to post a picture of it on my Facebook wall, tweet it, call my mom… you know what I’m talking about. Well, Save on Meats has now added to the ways you can share their food experiences with their meal token program. You can purchase a cute branded token, about the size of a toonie and give to one of the increasing number of panhandlers living in the Dowtown Eastside. It’s a genius idea really… for $2.25 it gives a delicious warm meal to someone in need that they can redeem at their convenience. It allows for the tangible human interaction of giving in a way that also mitigates the hesitancy some people have about giving money to people living in a neighborhood that is pretty much synonymous with drugs and addiction in the Vancouver dialect.

What this program boils down to for Save on Meats is the creation of a sustainable year round program that benefits the community, a healthy buzz around town that has landed them in The Province, on Global TV, and ultimately, more sales. They are even setting up a website where the tokens can be ordered online (Hello stocking stuffers!). This isn’t the first time the enterprise has gotten attention for their socially responsible business model. Save on Meats got Vancouver food groupies talking this summer when Mark Brand (of Boneta, Sea Monstr Sushi, and The Diamond) resurrected the once destitute space on the Downtown Eastside into a successful butchery selling ethical meats on the cheap. What had previously been an ironic landmark of the Downtown Eastside featuring a neon pink sign of their trademark jovial pig (under which there were usually a few homeless people sleeping and a boarded up space) was turned into a busy shop, diner, and sandwich counter. Since they reopened, they have been providing 450 meals daily to low income single occupancy residents in the area, creating partnerships with local organizations and hiring barrier employees from the community. Oh – and don’t worry, the pig stayed, it just looks like they gave him a bath.

“This token program has been a long time coming. It isn’t just about being able to provide someone with a nourishing meal, but also the engagement into your community and the power of real human interaction,” says Mark Brand, owner of Save on Meats. “This is our city and we want to make it better every day with unconventional solutions.”

This is an example of a company that goes beyond just business operations as usual; it is part of their mandate to actively become part of the community where they operate in a way that makes it better and their brand has become known and respected for it. Just goes to show how thinking outside the (lunch)box to create a business model that serves the needs of the community can also serve your bottom line.