August 21, 2017

Boston healthy food vendor startup targets Hartford

PHOTO | Contributed
PHOTO | Contributed
LeanBox’s high-tech, self-serve kiosks are stocked with fresh food and beverages. The Boston-area startup is targeting Greater Hartford for expansion.
Shea Coakley, co-founder, LeanBox

If you're looking to make your workplace more employee friendly, a Boston-area startup is hoping to help you.

LeanBox, which sells to employer office spaces high-tech, self-serve kiosks stocked with fresh food and beverages, has turned its gaze toward Greater Hartford.

The startup, which says it has served about 400 customers in New England since it was founded in 2013, has chosen Greater Hartford and Chicago as its two target markets for expansion.

Co-founder Shea Coakley said in a recent interview that the company plans to open a distribution center in or around Hartford in the next three or four months.

LeanBox hasn't yet picked the location for its Connecticut office, but Coakley said it would be leased space that would start out with about 15 employees. LeanBox has approximately 60 employees in Boston.

LeanBox is trying to cash in on the recent popularity of cold brewed ice coffee, which major retailers like Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts added to their respective line-ups last year.

LeanBox brews and kegs cold brew in Massachusetts and its customers can lease cold brew taps and take deliveries.

Coakley said investment management firm Conning just became LeanBox's first Hartford customer.

Coakley said he is hoping to replicate some of the success LeanBox has had placing its self-checout retail machines in office parks in the Greater Boston area. Accounting firms, marketing agencies and others are part of a "growing tidal wave of offices wanting to improve culture," he said.

"Hartford we thought was interesting in that it's pretty close to us and has a lot of corporate offices that we think potentially lack access to healthy fresh food," Coakley said.

LeanBox kiosks often contain sandwiches, salads, yogurts, pressed juices and other items, which are sourced from a variety of vendors.

The company hasn't tapped any Connecticut food or beverage makers yet, but Coakley said it likely would.

"Local is always a big thing," he said.

LeanBox kiosks, which cost between $1,000 and $1,500 a month to rent, are equipped with computer screens that accept debit and credit card payments, but employees can also use an app to check out. Generous employers can put credits on employee accounts to provide discounted or free food.

The computerized system is also crucial to logistics, as it lets LeanBox know what needs restocking, Coakley said.

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