In today’s busy world, many people find themselves overfed or undernourished. Galley is solving these problems by making eating well simple and convenient.
The D.C.-based food delivery service offers chef-prepared meals straight to your door and ready to serve. All meals are made from scratch every day using the fresh seasonal ingredients from local farms whenever possible — no canned products, pre-made sauces or mixes.
Galley’s menu changes daily with entrees such as Chesapeake crab cakes, salsa verde salmon and pesto goat cheese chicken, plus vegetarian meals like Swiss Chard and Corn Gratin and Roasted Cauliflower.
There are even kids items such as Chicken and Cheese Quesadillas and Pizza Pot Pie. Customer favorite meals are repeated every couple of weeks.
Unlike other meal delivery services, Galley doesn’t require a subscription and there are no minimums or weekly commitments for ordering. Customers can order up to two weeks in advance.
Exclusively available for ARLnow readers… get $10 off your first order with code ARLNOW.
Anyone in the Arlington area will soon be able to have food delivered from the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City’s six restaurants and food court.
The mall (1101 S. Hayes Street) will launch Fashion Centre Delivered on Monday, October 16, in partnership with delivery provider Zifty. Food will be delivered directly from the mall’s eateries, including the likes of Sugar Factory, Matchbox American Kitchen + Spirit and more.
“We’re always seeking new ways to provide additional offerings for the community around our center,” Todd Jerscheid, director of marketing and business development at Fashion Centre at Pentagon City, said in a statement. “Teaming up with Zifty is a new opportunity to help guests throughout the area conveniently enjoy their favorite meal from our food court restaurants at home or in the office.”
Zifty launched in Atlanta in 2003, and partners with local restaurants and brands to deliver directly to customers’ doors.
Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.
If you’ve ever wanted to prepare a restaurant-quality meal in your own kitchen, your hunger may now be satisfied.
CookDC is a startup based out of Shirlington that delivers ready-to-cook meals to your doorstep. Its stated goal is “turning home cooks into chefs.” Examples of previous meal-kits include grass-fed flat iron steaks with smashed marble potatoes and romano beans as well as more exotic dishes such as homemade tagliatelle with wild stinging nettle pesto.
CookDC differentiates itself from similar food delivery services by prioritizing flavor over convenience and price. CookDC is not designed to be the cheapest or most efficient meal delivery option, but teaches people to cook delicious food comparable to a fancy dinner out.
“Everything is ordered a la carte so it’s not a subscription like the national chains,” said Matthew McCormack, who founded CookDC with his wife, Debbie McCormack. “You go [online and look at the menu] and if you see something you like, you buy it.”
Each meal comes with a written-up explanation of its historical background along with a description of the cooking techniques needed to prepare it.
“[The Food Network or cookbooks] are telling you how to cook it but they’re not telling you where you’re supposed to get wild morels from, [for example],” McCormack said. “They’re not handing it to you and then showing you how to use it, [like us].”
The culinary term for what CookDC does is “mise en place,” French for “put in place.” Professional kitchens spend all day prepping their ingredients and once their restaurant opens, all the chefs do is cook the food.
“As soon as a restaurant service starts, nobody is cutting a carrot,” McCormack said. “We’re giving you the ‘mise en place,’ giving you very clear instructions on how to finish that dish yourself. It’s prepped, it’s packaged.”
Customers do have the option of paying extra to get the meal fully prepared, or they can specify that they do not want to cook it that night. They can also double the portion or request kids’ servings.
Meals are delivered throughout the D.C. region between 2-5 p.m. The night before delivery, customers are told whether or not they need a certain pan for the meal or if they will have to fire up their grill in order to cook it. On the day of delivery, customers are texted when the meal-kit has left CookDC’s kitchen. Meals are delivered in coolers and are packaged in step-by-step compartments. Each meal usually has between three to seven steps.
McCormack explained that some of his frequent customers have developed such a trust in the quality of the meals that they order dishes they have never tried, such as tagliatelle with stinging nettles.
CookDC uses several restaurant wholesalers to get its products. The ingredients are always ordered the day of preparation or one day before. Produce tends to be from farms in Maryland or Long Island. McCormack explained that he also likes to highlight wild produce that cannot be cultivated.
“Everything is super fresh,” McCormack explained. “We actually did North Carolina trout recently. It was caught on a Tuesday, the supplier delivered it Wednesday morning. It was just gorgeous, glassy-eyed fish with absolutely no fishy smell.”
McCormack and his wife Debbie founded CookDC on March 1, 2016. Before that, he was simply an investment banker who liked to cook.
“I’ve always been a very advanced cook. In college, I would cook three turkeys every Thanksgiving for my fraternity,” McCormack said. “I was a volunteer fireman — I was the one that cooked on every shift. My wife and I do a 10-course charity dinner every year for our kids’ school.”
Then a few years back he ordered a Blue Apron box and was impressed by the business model, but thought the food was lacking in flavor so created CookDC. His wife remains an executive at Deloitte but provides “invaluable guidance” to her husband.
In the future, McCormack’s dream is to expand CookDC to all major US cities. All the recipes would be tested, there would be supply-chain sourcing and local franchise owners to deliver the meals around each region.
A food delivery service that’s popular in New York City is coming to Arlington and some other D.C. area locales.
FreshDirect, a well-funded online food retailer that delivers “farm-fresh produce, high-quality meat, seafood, dairy, prepared meals and grocery staples,” is launching in Arlington, Bethesda, McLean and parts of the District next week on Wednesday, April 5.
FreshDirect will offer next-day delivery to just about every Arlington ZIP code: 22201, 22202, 22203, 22204, 22205, 22206, 22207, 22209, 22211, and 22213.
“The service will offer 12,000 high-quality products and give residents the chance to try popular specialty foods such as Roberta’s pizza from Brooklyn, Wandering Bear Cold Brew Coffee, dairy-free yogurt from Anita’s, premium deli meats from Boar’s Head and JUST FreshDirect Wild Caught Albacore Tuna,” a PR rep said.
More from a press release:
FreshDirect sources from farms in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York.
No-subscription meal kits will also be part of the offering, giving D.C. consumers more options for dinner tonight. In addition to home delivery, FreshDirect also feeds D.C.’s busy workforce with an ‘At The Office’ service, which includes chef-prepared breakfasts, luncheon platters perfect for business meetings, catering services for events, and popular brands of snacks, beverages and pantry items…
FreshDirect customers can order next day delivery in the two hour window of their choice via web or mobile app as early as 6:30 a.m. through 11:00 p.m.. Customers can either pay per order for the service cost of $7.99 with a $40 minimum spend per order or pay an annual fee of $129.00 for unlimited free delivery through DeliveryPass. DeliveryPass members enjoy unlimited free deliveries and exclusive special offers and savings. First timers can get a 2-month trial for 1 cent.
FreshDirect opened its new D.C. facility in Prince George’s County and has hired more than 50 local employees as part of the expansion. For more information, visit www.freshdirect.com or download the iPhone, Android and iPad mobile apps.
The following is the first in a weekly series of articles about a “day in the life” of companies at the MakeOffices coworking space in Clarendon. The mini-series, which will run this fall, is sponsored by MakeOffices.
“Okay, let’s do the stand-up meeting now. What’s everyone up to?” says Shy Pahlevani, co-founder of Hungry, an app-based food delivery service.
The nearly 20 employees at the startup take Pahlevani’s cue and begin with the morning routine of everyone standing up for a few minutes while announcing what they’re working on. It’s this kind of collaborative model that the business says helps it thrive.
And thrive it does. In its first month after opening to the public, Hungry sold more than 1,000 meals and has goals to further expand.
After everyone has had a turn at the morning meeting, some employees remain in Hungry’s office space at MakeOffices Clarendon to go about their tasks, such as marketing and coordinating deliveries. Others scatter to some of the areas that Hungry shares with the other coworking space occupants.
A few Hungry employees, including Director of Chef Onboarding Laura Medina, head to the kitchen to prepare for one of the chefs who’s bringing in his dish of the day. It’s the chef’s chance to show off what food he can offer, and this particular dish will be available for Hungry users to purchase for delivery the following week.
“For the rent that we spend, we’re grateful to have great looking countertops and a gourmet-looking kitchen,” says Pahlevani. “It’s very appealing when we take pictures of our food and pictures of our chefs when we use this environment here.”
The Hungry team helps the chef set up his food in various parts of the kitchen that will allow for the best photographs. Contract photographer Reema Desai takes a prepared dish over to the window that overlooks Clarendon Boulevard to get a little more natural light on the display. As she arranges the food, she turns it slightly one way, then adds a napkin, then fluffs some of the garnish. She’s trying to use the light to maximize all the available textures and colors. “[The chefs] make it easy for me. The dishes already have a lot of bright, different colors and I just try to bring that out,” she says.
Designer Collin O’Brien works with the newly snapped photos. He’s populating the app with them and ensures the presentation works across all platforms — internet, iOS and Android. Getting customers to buy the food is all about quality and presentation.
Marketing can be one of the most difficult aspects for a fledgling small business to master, but Hungry employees say the coworking environment actually makes it easier. Again, it comes back to collaboration, this time outside of the immediate Hungry team. “It’s a really great base for word of mouth,” says Pardis Saremi, Hungry’s director of public relations.
She explains that employees at other businesses in the coworking space get interested when they see the food displays and try the service themselves. That has led to many becoming customers of the delivery service and talking it up to others. “They’re telling their friends. I also had someone say they know chefs that would love to cook on our app. The connections and the word of mouth is just so, so helpful,” Saremi says. The on-site connections also have led to two other MakeOffices occupants booking Hungry’s chefs — through the app — to cater events.
She also credits the MakeOffices newsletter that goes out to all coworking office occupants with drumming up interest in Hungry’s events and promotions. About 300 people showed up at the startup’s first food event, just based on word of mouth among the coworking office occupants. That definitely wouldn’t have been the case in a standalone building, says Saremi.
“The food business is very tough. So getting people to try our dishes and recommend us to friends is really how we’re going to grow,” says Pahlevani. “Being able to start in a space that’s 40,000 square feet and has 70 plus companies is an easy way… to get some traction early, just leveraging the folks here.”
Potential customers aren’t the only thing office interactions have produced; the Hungry employees also have forged mutually beneficial business relationships. “It’s a great way to attract talent from other startups that may have complementary businesses and can support the things we’re doing,” Pahlevani says. “We’ve met photographers from other groups that are now helping us. We’ve met social media gurus that are now helping us.”
Saremi agrees, further explaining how employees constantly gain unexpected knowledge for improving the business. “I met a guy in this building who does something in physics and he was giving us ideas on things to do with our packaging to keep the food warm,” she says.
Sometimes the employees finish their daily tasks during what would be considered a traditional “quitting time.” But with all the action from the chef’s visit, this may end up being one of those times the work day stretches longer into the evening. “When you start a startup it’s a lot of hard work,” says Pahlevani. “It’s very motivating to see a lot of other people staying past 9 p.m. It encourages our employees.”
The Hungry employees are proud of the hard work they’ve put into the business and how much it already has grown, which makes the time pass quickly, says Saremi. “There’s definitely an entrepreneurial spirit and everyone is so supportive of each other in this space,” she says. “You meet so many people… you see everyone growing in this space.”
Expect to hear more about Hungry in the coming months: the company just announced that it raised $2.5 million in seed funding, in a round led by New York-based Timeless Capital.
A short, plain text message — “Dr. Delivery has ceased operations” — is now the only thing displayed on the company’s website. The website was still functional as recently as a week ago.
Based in Falls Church, Doctor Delivery launched in 2001 and served Arlington, D.C., Alexandria and part of Fairfax County, offering to deliver food from some 125 local restaurants.
The company also offered custom courier services — it would pick up your dry cleaning or bring you items from 7-Eleven, for instance. Orders could be placed online or via phone.
Lately Doctor Delivery has faced stiff competition from well-funded tech companies that have offered smartphone app-based food ordering services. Yet another delivery service, UberEATS, from the ride hailing company Uber, launched in Arlington late last week.
Hungry Arlington residents and workers can now use the UberEATS app to order food from local restaurants. Users can order off the full restaurant menu, rather than having to choose between a few select items.
“Uber is partnering with over a dozen restaurants in the Arlington area and working to add more every week,” said Uber spokeswoman Kaitlin Durkosh. “Depending on your location, you can also order from restaurants in D.C., too.”
The service is offered from 9 a.m. to midnight daily and, Uber claims, can deliver food in as little as 10 minutes. There’s a flat $4.99 delivery fee, plus the cost of the food.
The bad news is that there’s a limited delivery area. The Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, plus Pentagon City and Crystal City, are included. Some western, northern and southern portions of Arlington, including East Falls Church, Shirlington and Fairlington, are excluded. (See map, above.)
Uber announced the Arlington expansion of UberEATS in a blog post Thursday.
County Board Work Sessions to Be Broadcast — Arlington TV, the county government’s cable channel, will begin broadcasting County Board work sessions on cable and online this month. First up: the riveting County Board work session on the FY 2017 budget, scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday. [Arlington County]
Meal Delivery Startup Now Serving Part of Arlington — Galley, a D.C.-based meal delivery startup, says it just expanded its delivery area to include Rosslyn, Courthouse and Clarendon.
ACPD Focusing on Heroin Use and Addiction — The Arlington County Police Department is joining other law enforcement agencies around the region in an initiative to try to curb the distribution, possession and use of heroin. For those battling addiction, there are a number of treatment options in Arlington. [Arlington County]
Schneider to Lead Thrive — Former Democratic County Board candidate Andrew Schneider has been named the new Executive Director of Arlington Thrive, effective today. Thrive is a nonprofit that provides same-day financial assistance to residents in crisis.
Board Thanks Legislators for Hotel Tax Bill — The Arlington County Board is offering its thanks to the state legislators who successfully shepherded Arlington’s hotel tax surcharge reauthorization through the Virginia General Assembly. [Arlington County]
Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) was treated to a special meal when he visited La Cocina, a bilingual culinary school for the unemployed or underemployed: crickets.
Beyer visited the Hispanic-oriented culinary school in the basement of Mount Olivet Church (1500 N. Glebe Road) near Ballston yesterday, where he learned more about the school’s mission and heard from a couple of the six current students.
“This is very exciting,” Beyer told the students.
For his visit, the students, under Chef Instructor Alberto Vega, prepared a green salad with honey-crusted crickets and gluten-free chocolate chip and cricket cookies.
Crickets add protein into the people’s diets, La Cocina Executive Director Patricia Funegra said during a presentation. Crickets are also a sustainable food and La Cocina is working to encourage healthy and sustainable food into modern diets, Funegra said.
“We have to start thinking about that [sustainable food] in a very serious way,” Funegra said.
La Cocina is both a school and a food assistance program. The students prepare meals and then deliver them to residents of local affordable housing communities in a partnership with Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing.
All meals prepared are made with healthy foods, in hopes of fighting obesity, which plagues the Hispanic community, Funegra said. Meals contain 50 percent fruit and vegetables and 50 percent lean proteins, according to La Cocina’s website.
Yesterday, the students prepared a salad and spaghetti and turkey meatballs for the residents. Beyer helped the students by ladling the meatballs. He then joined them in handing out the meals to families.
La Cocina has seen a lot of success with its program, Funegra said. The last class had 100 percent completion and job placement. The current class is the school’s third.
“To have 100 percent completion is something to be proud of,” she said.
The school teaches bilingual culinary skills, sanitation practices, English needed for culinary work and life, and employment skills, such as working in a team. The school does not charge tuition and provides all the materials for the students, including a travel stipend, Funegra said.
Students come from the entire D.C. area, with some coming as far as Germantown, Maryland.
The school is working to build a kitchen incubator program, which could help former students and other members of the Hispanic community start new culinary businesses, such as food trucks or restaurants, Funegra said. It is in the early stages, but she expects to have the program ready by next summer.
“That’d be a great transition for your students from the school to the incubator,” Beyer said.
The school has a partnership with Whole Foods for a one month internship for students and many are hired by the grocery chain following the internship. By completing the program, students have the opportunity to make $13 an hour, a higher wage than they could make without the program.
For Alexandra Garcia, a La Cocina student originally from Guatemala, the culinary school gaves her the ability to make a better living than she could before coming to the United States.
“I used to work as a secretary [in Guatemala], so this [working with food] is a whole new thing for me,” she said to Beyer.
Beyer is not the only Congressional member to visit the school. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) visited the school in April.
ITT Tech Protest Only Included One Student — A protest outside ITT Tech’s shareholder meeting in Rosslyn earlier this week reportedly included only one person who had actually been a student at the for-profit school. The rest were from advocacy groups and a labor union. [Inside Higher Ed]
New Food Delivery Service Comes to Arlington — DoorDash, an online food delivery business that promises to get food to your door in 45 minutes or less, has launched in Arlington. DoorDash joins similar food delivery services like Seamless and Eat24 in entering the Arlington market. [WUSA 9]
Arlington Teacher Recognized at the White House — Arlington Career Center teacher Thomas O’Day was one of 10 educators nationwide to be honored as a 2015 Career and Technical Education Innovator. O’Day, who has been teaching television production at the career center for 27 years, received his recognition at an event hosted by the White House. [Arlington Public Schools]
New Affordable Housing Video — The group Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement (VOICE) is producing a series of videos in support of affordable housing efforts in Arlington. The first video profiles Marcos Rubio, a janitor at H-B Woodlawn who currently commutes from the Springfield area. [Vimeo]
House Fire in Alcova Heights — A small house fire broke out on the 3800 block of 6th Street S. in the Alcova Heights neighborhood around 7:00 this morning. The fire was extinguished and no one was hurt. [Twitter]
Fairfax County Approves Seven Corners Plan — The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors this week approved a sweeping redevelopment plan for the Seven Corners area, near Arlington. The plan, which was fought by residents in nearby single family home neighborhoods, calls for several thousand new homes, a revamped street grid and new shops and restaurants. [Washington Post]
It was revealed this week that Chipotle has begun offering an officially-sanctioned delivery service.
The food deliveries are being offered in a number of U.S. metro areas, including the D.C. area, through online delivery service Postmates.
While the idea of an on-demand burrito may sound appetizing, the cost of the service is less so. USA Today reported that the cost starts at $5, on top of the cost of the food. Re/code, which broke the story, was being asked for $12 in delivery and service fees, bringing the cost of an $8 order to $20 delivered.
ARLnow.com tested the ordering process using the Chipotle in the Pentagon City mall and was asked for $7.16 in fees for delivery to an address a couple of blocks from the mall, nearly doubling the cost of a steak burrito.
Can you see yourself ever using this delivery service for your Chipotle meal?
Savory officially launched in ZIP codes 22202 and 22201, serving chef-prepared meals between 10:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. Savory is also offering meals tonight (Wednesday), founder Glenn Espinosa told ARLnow.com.
Savory officially launched last Friday out of its base in D.C.’s Union Kitchen. Espinosa founded it after working as a nurse with shifts late at night.
“The first thing I get asked when I come into a shift is ‘what are we going to eat tonight?'” Espinosa said. The answer was “always Domino’s or Chinese food. The first two years I gained 20 pounds just because the food options were so horrible. So I decided to solve my own problem.”
Espinosa enlisted the former executive chef at Flight Wine Bar, Bradley Curtis, to prepare the meals. Espinosa aims for all of them to be under $10 and delivered within 30 minutes of ordering. That’s why, Espinosa said, the service days and locations are so sparse — he wants to make sure he can meet small demand before ramping up.
Those who don’t live in 22202 or 22201 but want Savory should request the service on its website, so Espinosa can gauge demand, he said.
“We go where the demand is,” he said. “If Arlington ends up being where most of our customers and we see huge growth, then we’ll expand there.”
This week, Savory will expand to the 22205 ZIP code, so it can serve Virginia Hospital Center. Espinosa said he expects hospital employees to be among his early adopters, since he’s acutely aware of their need for his service.
Tonight, Curtis is offering a D.C. half-smoke platter with baked beans, cole slaw and molasses brown bread or a mustard baked salmon with fingerling potatoes and peas, each for $9. Pre-orders can begin at 6:00 p.m. All orders have a delivery fee of $3 and the meals are delivered chilled with microwave or oven heating instructions.
Photo courtesy Glenn Espinosa
APS Graduation Rate Rises to 92 Percent — Arlington Public Schools’ graduation rate rose to 92 percent for the Class of 2014, up from 85.2 percent in 2010. The dropout rate declined to 3.8 percent this year and the graduation rate for Arlington’s three comprehensive high schools reached 98.7 percent. “This steady improvement is a reflection of the teamwork of everyone working together to ensure that our students succeed,” said Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy, in a statement. [Arlington Public Schools]
Company Promises In-N-Out Delivery — As a publicity stunt, food delivery service OrderAhead is offering to deliver frozen In-N-Out Double Double burgers from California today to addresses Arlington and D.C. Even though In-N-Out is famous for food that’s never frozen or pre-packaged, the offer is apparently proving popular for those with a craving for the west coast chain. Currently, a website set up to provide more information about the promotion is down. [Eater]
County Board Supports Nonpartisan Redistricting — The Arlington County Board voted unanimously on Tuesday to support nonpartisan redistricting of state legislative boundaries. Democratic Board Chairman Jay Fisette said partisan redistricting leads to “stagnation and gridlock,” while independent Board member John Vihstadt said it produces “toxic partisanship in Washington and Richmond.” [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
It took less than a minute, according to the witness who snapped the photo, above, last week.
An SUV with a Jimmy John’s delivery sign on the top pulls into the private parking area of an Arlington office building around noon. The delivery guy quickly makes his way to the lobby, dropping off a sandwich for a hungry cubicle dweller and hoping for a buck or two in return as a tip.
During the brief moments the delivery guy is inside, a tow truck from Ballston-based Advanced Towing swoops in, hooks the rear tires of the SUV and begins to drive off. The delivery guy is able to flag down the tow driver at the last second and pay the $25 “drop fee,” thus avoiding the $135 it would have cost to get his SUV back had it been impounded.
The witness is sympathetic to the delivery driver — “I worked in that industry in college and its already
hard enough to make money off tips” — and seems to think that this is an instance of a private towing company going rogue. It’s not. According to an Advanced employee, it’s legal and actually fairly common.
“In Arlington… we probably tow a delivery vehicle from just about every major food delivery business in the area at some point in time,” Paul Anderson, an administrative employee for Advanced Towing, told ARLnow.com. “There is no exemption for delivery vehicles… unless property owners ask for those to be exempted.”
In other words, if you park without authorization on private property — even if you’re delivering food, you leave your flashers on, go inside for just a few seconds, etc. — you can be towed. That is, unless the building owner specifically asks for an exemption.
Anderson said Advanced only “occasionally” gets complaints about towing delivery drivers. When they do, an employee explains ” that they were parked in an area they were not allowed to [park].”
So why would an office building owner want the poor fellow delivering sandwiches, pizza or Chinese food to one of the building’s occupants to be towed? Sometimes, Anderson said, it comes down to security — it wouldn’t be hard for someone with nefarious intentions to put a fake delivery sign on the roof of their car.
“Especially commercial buildings with government agencies, sometimes it’s a security issue,” he said. Given the number of government buildings in Arlington County, Anderson said Advanced has had meetings with the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security to discuss that very issue.
Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.
All of the decadent food he’d been eating had caught up to him. He admits he didn’t know much about nutrition before joining a Crossfit gym. It was there he learned about the Paleo diet, and the pounds started dropping fast.
That transformation is what inspired Cheng, who lives in Ballston, to found his startup The Green Spoon. The Green Spoon is a food delivery service that takes online orders in advance and delivers chef-prepared, locally sourced organic, gluten-free food.
Here’s how the concept works: at least a week before the customers want the meal, they order it online from The Green Spoon’s website. They can choose which day they want it, and which meal. Lunches are $12.95, dinners are $16.95 and kids meals are $8.95.
After the orders come in, Cheng and his partners talk to their farm partners, who deliver the fresh produce to the chef a couple of days later. The chef, Donn Souliyadath, then cooks the meals and Cheng is usually the one personally delivering them on the day they were requested.
“I wanted a gourmet meal service with healthy options, but around here you either need to eat salads or go to restaurants and order the same things again and again,” Cheng told ARLnow.com while sitting outside Buzz Bakery in Ballston, where Cheng spends many of his days running the company. “Our menu rotates every day. People can eat healthy and not have it the same way all the time.”
Cheng is 33 years old and said he was “entrepreneurial from the get-go,” starting his own financial consulting business immediately after graduating from Virginia Tech. At the start of the recession in 2008, he said he left that job the begin flipping houses, which turned into a multi-million dollar business with dozens of properties a year and several investors.
“At the end of last year, I had enough capital to start something I was really passionate about,” Cheng said. “I initially wanted to launch in March, but there was a lot of buzz around my friends and family, so I did a soft launch in December and it was very successful.”
Cheng said he interviewed a dozen chefs before deciding on Souliyadath, who he found through a Craigslist ad. Souliyadath was working as a personal chef in Great Falls, for a catering company and in a restaurant when Cheng brought him on full-time. Now the two work together to build a menu of, Cheng hopes, 40-50 menu options for each meal.
“A lot of talented young chefs work their asses off under big-name chefs in restaurants without recognition,” Cheng said. “Chefs are like artists, they want to create their own meals, their own recipes. Donn figured out what I wanted and we work together well.”
Cheng bootstrapped the company and hasn’t taken investment even though he said it’s been offered. The Green Spoon breaks even now, although Cheng doesn’t take a salary yet. Right now, the only neighborhoods the Green Spoon serves are Arlington, Old Town Alexandria and northwest D.C.
Cheng said he initially thought his main client base would be young people who want to follow a Paleo-like diet. But, he’s found his primary customers are mothers, which is why he and Souliyadath developed a kids menu.
Cheng is already eyeing growth areas — “obviously I want to grow as quickly as possible, but my partner wants us to scale slowly, so it’s going to be a mix” — and if the company can grow to serve the full D.C. area, he thinks cities like Denver, Charlotte and Atlanta would be ripe for Green Spoon expansion.
First things first, Cheng needs to stabilize his customer base here. He’s finalizing a partnership with a growing gym company that he thinks will “be a catalyst” for growth, and he’s already looking at new partnerships for more kitchens.
“I though [founding a startup] would be so much harder,” he said. “As a financial advisor, everyone hated the cold calls. In this industry, if you have a cool concept, everyone wants to help.”