Eat Offbeat is a social impact food company that offers catering and meal boxes made by former refugee and immigrant chefs in New York. The startup brings the best “Global Homecooking” from around the world to a wider audience via a unique business model: It trains former refugees to share the traditions of food and culture of their home countries by becoming chefs. The company works with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and the New York Immigration Coalition to find and recruit talented home cooks, with no previous professional experience necessary.
Pentagram developed a visual identity, brand strategy and positioning for Eat Offbeat that reflect its empowering mission and the bold flavors of its cuisine. The flexible system can expand and evolve with the company as it grows.
The designers worked closely on the project with Eat Offbeat’s co-founders, Manal and Wissam Kahi, siblings who are immigrants themselves, having relocated to NYC from Lebanon in 2013. Manal first had the idea for the company when she looked for some her favorite foods from home and realized the former refugee communities that have resettled in New York are an extraordinary and largely untapped source for incredible cooking. The Kahis partnered with the Michelin-starred Chef Juan, who has helped train over 40 former refugee chefs with kitchen skills since Eat Offbeat was started in 2015.
True to its name, Eat Offbeat seeks to introduce people to new, unfamiliar dishes they may not have experienced before, even in New York, a city known for its extraordinarily diverse food. The company sets itself apart by focusing on uncommon cuisines that are “off the beaten path,” from countries including Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Nepal, Venezuela, Guinea, Cambodia, Lebanon and Sri Lanka. It celebrates the cultural and culinary diversities brought by the former refugees and educates consumers about traditions of food and culture. Each chef creates their own original recipes and dishes, and is featured alongside them to give them a sense of ownership.
Eat Offbeat had two specific goals with the new branding. First, the company wanted to broaden its customer base from large-scale catering to everyday consumers as it branched out into meal kits. At the same time, it wanted to recenter the brand positioning to a more aspirational narrative, without losing the humanitarian aspect of its business model.
The brand strategy highlights Eat Offbeat as a unique and adventurous choice that expands palates with new tastes––and with a feeling of family, togetherness and home. This is captured in the positioning, which describes the company’s offer as “Global Homecooking”––bringing the best global home cooking home to you.
The visual identity is simple but dynamic to cover uses from corporate catering to consumer products. The logo captures the idea of migration with type that shifts and moves before settling into staggered formations that are visually “off the beat.” The wordmark is set in TT Trailers Bold (designed by Type Type), a modern humanist grotesque with distinctive details. Secondary type is set in the minimal sans TT Commons (also by Type Type).
The bright, vibrant color palette draws on the variety of cultures and dishes. The designers created playful illustrations of ingredients, countries and meal boxes. A color system simplifies flags into three bands of color that indicate the country of origin for individual dishes or meals.
The packaging for the meal boxes is functional and utilitarian, but can be customized with stickers of the illustrations that give the containers the look of parcels that have traveled around the world, collecting stamps and labels. This additive approach is used across the branding, allowing the identity and packaging to modulate from practical to more expressive across a variety of applications.
The team also designed materials for catering such as menus and pop-up tent cards that identify the food being served. All of the dishes include a description and a photo of the chef who prepared them, in keeping with the company’s mission to ensure that the chefs are being represented, can take pride in their own work and are part of the consumer experience.
This idea extends through the Eat Offbeat website and social media, which put the chefs and their dishes front and center to introduce customers to this culinary collective and the delicious meals they create.