The new business of fresh food fast
Eating patterns change like fashion. This was one of the assertions made by CEO and founder of Freshly, a pre-prepared food service that delivers. Literally. To your door.
The panel “Evolution of Fast Casual and the Shift to Mindful Eating” focused its attention on Freshly founder Mike Wystrach and By Chloe; with Chloe Coscarelli herself and Samantha Wasser of Esquared Hospitality, a collaborator in creating By Chloe.
The three were interviewed by Dan Gentile of Thrillist.
Both Coscarelli and Wystrach were exposed to the world of food at a young age. Wystrach’s family owned a restaurant, which he was disinterested in until he hit 30, he said, and it was hard to stay in the health and shape he wanted to maintain.
He started a paleo diet and within a couple months he said, “I was in the best shape I’d ever been.”
Coscarelli has been a vegan since she was in middle school and loved cooking for her family. She has also won on the television baking competition Cupcake Wars with vegan cupcakes.
Both recognized the lack of convenient food available for their diets, and said they started their businesses in response.
“Samantha (Wasser) and I having busy lifestyles, we thought if we could put something together with healthy fresh food…and have them accessible at an accessible price point, that’s something that appealed to us as consumers,” Coscarelli said.
Wasser says the business serves more than 1,000 people a day and provides a place that patrons can run in and grab a snack or have a night out in a fun atmosphere.
“It makes it more enjoyable instead of, ‘I’m going to grab this salad and I’m not even going to enjoy it,’” she said.
Wystrach’s business provides pre-packaged, fully-cooked meals that just need to be heated. People want convenience, but they also want to be healthy, he said.
He said for the first time, early last year, the U.S. household spends more going out to eat than they do for food for their house.
“It’s the only market I know of that the consumer has to buy the product three times a day,” he said. “We’re really the only ones delivering pre-cooked meals and have this (healthy) focus.”
By Chloe’s best-selling dishes include the Guac Burger, made with quinoa, sweet potato, and avocado among other ingredients on a flaxseed bun.
Coscarelli said her favorite ingredient is avocado, and calls it “nature’s butter.” She says there are few menu items without it.
Coscarelli said that they also sell healthy desserts – something she says she likes to have with every meal.
“When we went out to other fast-casual restaurants…the desert option is a total afterthought for many places,” she said. “We wanted to make it part of the whole experience.”
Wystrach’s food variety includes breakfast, lunch and dinner. He said his staples are a Denver omelet, turkey chili and barbeque pork.
Both companies have created healthy food that is also craveable, they said, and creating something the consumer can crave is one step closer to getting them away from addicting, greasy fast food.
“Just because it’s healthy, that’s not an excuse for it to be bland or uninspired,” said Coscarelli, who also said she was surprised by the great response consumers have had to their food.
As far as a business plan, all three panelists encouraged the audience to ignore the competition and do what you – as a business creator – want to do.
The challenge for Coscarelli was the balance of convenience and freshness.
“We’re trying our hardest everyday what we’d consider recipes for a full-service restaurant and have it ready 5 minutes after someone’s ordered it, that’s a challenge,” she said.
All three panelists predicted there will be many more businesses like their own in the near future, and hope to see the market grow.
“We’re excited to push other companies to do this,” said Wystrach. “What Whole Foods did for the grocery store 20 years ago…I hope we’re part of that movement in food.”