Thursday, October 4, 2012
Smartphone app feeds the hungry this holiday season
So far, Tango Tab has served more than 100,000 people in the Dallas area.
PLANO With the holidays quickly approaching, area food pantries are ramping up their campaigns to ensure there is enough food to go around come Thanksgiving and Christmas.
For some pantries, receiving monetary donations has never been easier thanks to a company founded by Plano resident Andre Angel. That company connects potential donors with local restaurants through their smart phones. As the cliché goes, there's an app for that.
"We launched in January of this year, and so far we have fed over 100,000 people, mostly here in the Dallas area," said Angel, founder of Tango Tab. "One in six Americans go to bed hungry each night, so we have created a model that when you eat at one of our participating restaurants, we feed a person through one of our local food pantries. When you eat, they eat."
The app, which offers special limited-time offers from participating restaurants, is beneficial to the business and the food pantry, Angel said.
"With Tango Tab, we are trying to solve a business and social problem," Angel said. "We help restaurants fill the empty seats, which are one of the biggest problems in restaurants. ... Those seats are not generating money, so they are effectively lost revenue."
Unlike some other mobile-phone coupon apps, Tango Tab lets restaurants take full control of when and what deals are offered, Angel said. If a restaurant has trouble filling seats from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., for instance, then their offer can be specifically tailored for that time slot.
"From a consumer perspective, it is a free offer," Angel said. "If you see an offer you like, you can take advantage of it. You don't pay us anything since you are not buying an offer. We get paid a small transaction fee by the restaurants for bringing you in."
Tango Tab takes the revenue it receives from businesses and donates 20 percent to local food pantries -- averaging out to one meal provided for each transaction, Angel said.
When Tango Tab launched earlier this year in the DFW market, the first pantry it partnered with was Minnie's Food Pantry in west Plano. Earlier this year Minnie's received a donation of 40,000 meals, and while subsequent donations have been smaller, the pantry's president Cheryl "Action" Jackson said the partnership has been well worth it.
"We are able to get food at a discounted rate through our partnership with the North Texas Food Bank," Jackson said. "For instance, we pay 24 cents for a box of cereal, where the average consumer is paying $2.99 or $3.99. Tango Tab allows us to look at our inventory, bring in cash, and then purchase the items we need in specific quantities."
Tango Tab doesn't just provide monetary assistance to the pantry, Jackson said. She said the company's employees have donated their time at the pantry, and also helped bring in local celebrities to volunteer and help raise awareness of the problem of hunger in Collin County, the most affluent county in Texas.
"We are anticipating feeding 1,200 families this Thanksgiving, and 90 percent of those families are going to be from Plano," Jackson said.
One of the restaurants that has partnered with Tango Tab is Posh Nosh Market, 1032 E. 15th Street, a downtown eatery that could be described as a combination Internet café, deli, coffee shot, gelato bar, and beer and wine store.
The market features more than 60 different beers as well as cupcakes made by Virginia Tidwell, owner of Mostly Cupcakes. Menu items range from Greek salad and specialty sandwiches to lasagna and other pastas.
Posh Nosh owner TK Koen said he appreciates the flexibility offered by the partnership, and also likes that it allows his restaurant to do its part by giving back to its community.
"One of my partner's daughters is taking some of our food from here to an elderly care place to feed those people," Koen said. "That is something we believe in and I like the idea of Tango Tab donating meals to the hungry."
The new app launched in Plano and has multiple participating restaurants throughout the city but is spreading to surrounding cities, including McKinney. So far there are only a handful of participating restaurants in McKinney, but that number should increase in the next few weeks, Angel said.
The final piece of the Tango Tab puzzle in McKinney is choosing a food pantry to receive the donations, a process Angel said is ongoing. Interested food banks are encouraged to contact Angel through his website, www.tangotab.com.
The Tango Tab app is free and is compatible with both iPhones and Android-powered phones.
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