A Provo-based mobile app company is partnering with a Pleasant Grove foundation to support local restaurants by purchasing and donating $100,000 worth of food.

When 2for1 chief executive officer John Cook heard about the pandemic, he immediately felt for local businesses. Restaurants with already-established delivery or drive-thrus, he said, were on the right track and had a number of advantages going.

“Business were wondering how they were going to survive,” he said. “How are they going to redo their models? How are they going to make everything work?”

When nonessential businesses were closed and dine-in operations were prohibited, several restaurants found themselves scrambling to develop a curbside takeout process and advertise the availability.

Cook went to a number of local businesses and worked with them to advertise their available services on the 2for1 app as several residents also began working with restaurants to put information out on social media. Not long after, Cook realized that small businesses across the state were not going to survive the pandemic without more support.

Rather than helping businesses simply communicate how consumers can order their product, 2for1 developed an initiative to make large purchases from businesses and give the food to the app’s users.

The initiative, called the Utah Restaurant Resurgence, is purchasing over 10,000 meals from local restaurants. The program is in conjunction with the Gregory and Julie Cook Foundation, which helped provide 2for1 with the funding necessary to undertake such a project.

Each of the meals is then placed on the 2for1 app, a Provo-based app founded in 2015 that connects consumers with local businesses by offering deals on products, goods and services. App users can then redeem the free meal or product on a specified day.

By offering free meals, the initiative is looking to increase the number of customers ordering from local restaurants throughout the state, which supports Gov. Gary Herbet’s 3T Challenge inviting residents to order takeout at least three times each week.

“Most of the people who come in to redeem a free cheeseburger will also buy french fries and a drink,” Cook said. “They need money, and so that’s how we thought, not only can we help them with a purchase but we could even turn that purchase into a little bit more for them.”

The Utah Restaurant Resurgence initiative made its debut on April 14 when app users gathered at Burgers Supreme in Provo to redeem 100 burgers. Now, the initiative has worked with almost a dozen local restaurants, including Fiiz Drinks, Malawi’s Pizza, One Man Band and Gandolfo’s New York Deli.

“Each of these local businesses is a person who owns this business, and there’s a personality behind the business,” Cook said. “We want these local restaurants to stay open, we want them to continue to have business.”

Malawi’s Pizza owner Mark Roney said the pandemic has forced them to do things they have never done before, like online ordering. Malawi’s Pizza closed its doors late last year and was expecting to hold the grand opening of its new location in March, but it has been pushed back until July.

Roney said he was surprised when over 100 people showed up to redeem the free meals and even more surprised when a significant number of the app users purchased menu items in addition to the free pizza.

“It was the highest day in sales that we’ve had since we reopened because of everything going on,” he said. “For us it was really good because I think there’s a huge percentage of people in Utah Valley and in Provo who aren’t aware that we reopened because of when we reopened.”

2for1 has been reaching out to businesses all over the county but is hoping more local restaurants will reach out to them in order to streamline the process.

“We still have a ways to go,” Cook said.

Interested businesses can reach out to 2for1 online, or residents can nominate a local business by joining a Facebook group created specifically for the initiative.