During a casual conversation, Simon Bindefeld-Boccara and Jake Pelayo, seniors at Ransom Everglades School and friends since middle school, stumbled upon an idea that could help solve the food waste problem in the U.S. restaurant industry.
According to Simon and Jake’s business plan submission, 31 percent of the food in the United States goes to waste.
“We thought, ‘what if we could come up with this app that could help people go to high-end restaurants and solve the food waste crisis in the U.S.,’” Simon said.
Restaurants typically prepare food in advance of mealtime, and on slow nights, that food is thrown away. Consumers are often enticed to try expensive restaurants when promotional prices are offered.
Simon and Jake’s plan is to construct an app — Micki’s — that connects consumers to upscale restaurants. It allows restaurants to offer deals via the app, such as 30 percent off an entire tab or 50 percent off a specific dish. It would send out flash alerts on discounts for both eat-in and delivery meals. This arrangement would help the restaurant increase revenues — and decrease food waste.
Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge judges liked the concept and plan for executing it. The idea would appeal to millennials, they thought, offering them a smogasbord of meal options at prices they can stomach. And they applauded the idea of attacking the issue of food waste.
Micki’s could partner with app-enabled restaurant services like UberEats to deliver, the judges suggested. They awarded the team second place in the High School Track.
Already, there are apps that connect consumers to grocery stores and students to restaurants with discounted deals. Micki’s would be among the first to connect all types of consumers to restaurants with a focus on ending food waste, the team said.
“One of the interesting aspects of working with students as they prepare for the Business Plan Challenge is that I always learn something new about their talents and passions. This year was no exception,” said Jennifer Nero, their AP Macroeconomics/Microeconomics teacher, who uses the Challenge as a class project.
“Simon and Jake have been successful in our class all year long in their quiet and unassuming way. But through their development of Micki’s, they demonstrated a savvy understanding of the restaurant industry and the market’s appetite for good deals that can also deliver a social impact,” she said.
Simon and Jake both come from entrepreneurial families. Simon’s parents are French immigrants who created million-dollar businesses whose products are consumed all over the world: Muche et Muchette, a fashion line; and WIT Games, a video game and anime distribution company.
Simon also has insight into the technological aspects of producing an app. “I was really talented at coding when I was young — it comes naturally to me,” he said.
In the summer of 2016, Simon spent a month in China working for the entertainment company SC2 Events. There he honed his Mandarin skills — he has been studying the language for six years — and learned about international business.
Simon plans to attend Boston University and study international business and Mandarin. His long-term goal is to work with Chinese markets.
Jake’s background includes insider knowledge: His father is a serial entrepreneur and his stepfather has also started businesses. His uncle is a chef at the Ritz-Carlton in Naples.
“I get my entrepreneurial spirit from [my family],” Jake said. “It was passed down to me from everyday conversation… Through [my uncle], I can understand what goes into food preparation.”
Jake considers himself a problem solver. “Simon is a similar-minded person and that’s why we work so well together,” Pelayo said.
Jake will attend Babson College in the fall and plans to study international business and entrepreneurship.
“We want to go above and beyond,” said Simon. “The most important part is to help society. The food shouldn’t go to waste.”
Miami Herald business writer Nancy Dahlberg contributed to this report.