If you’re searching for a way to eat freshly cooked meals without compromising quality or spending too much time at the grocery store, a local startup may have the solution. Brian Park, a recent graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, is a co-founder of U Kitchen, a new startup that seeks to bring fresh food directly to customers’ doorsteps.
Customers can go online, select a meal from the menu and have the ingredients delivered. The meals come portioned into individual serving sizes, and customers can prepare the meal by following a recipe card in about 15 minutes.
U Kitchen initially tested the service by offering it to Washington University students and faculty members.
“Working people are really starting to look for these services as well in St. Louis,” says Park.
Delivering fresh ingredients is a trend across the country, Park said. In the Midwest, the concept has had some trouble catching on. Other services like Blue Apron and Plated have had success in other parts of the country. U Kitchen hopes to establish its roots here and then to branch out to other regions while continuing to keep service to the Midwest region a priority for the company moving forward.
Katie Collier, the founder of Katie’s Pizza and Pasta, also recently launched a beta test of an ingredient delivery service concept. Katie’s Pizza sent out 250 pizza kits to community members and received a lot of feedback — good and bad — which she will use to launch a pizza-kit delivery company in the coming six months.
Right now, the plan is to have kits come with fresh dough, cheese, toppings and pizza sauce. Collier hopes to expand into pasta kits as well if the concept takes off. Katie’s Pizza makes all of its pasta in-house from scratch.
What makes U Kitchen unique in comparison to some other fresh food delivery services is that the company not only delivers the needed ingredients, but does the pre-preparation on them as well. This saves the customer time in preparing the meal. They use vacuum packaging which removes the oxygen from the package keeping it fresh for longer periods of time.
Meals are prepared in U Kitchen’s commercial kitchen, located in downtown St. Louis. The ingredients are sourced and prepped there by professional chefs. From week to week customers have the opportunity to select the menu for the coming week by voting for their favorite meal options. This customer-selected menu is in addition to 8 classic meals that are always available for customers to order.
Currently, Park and another co-founder complete all of the deliveries for the service. In the future, they want to hire full-time delivery people who will be trained in customer service as well.
Collier and Park voiced their opinions on why fresh ingredient delivery adds value. Collier said that people enjoy do-it-yourself projects and becoming their own chef.
Both of these entrepreneurial ventures offer a variety of tastes and flavors through their services. U Kitchen customers have access to Tex-Mex, Creole and international meal varieties. Katie’s Pizza also offers both traditional and unique seasonal ingredients for their pizza kits.
“It’s evolved into this huge new space in food,” Katie Collier says. “The idea of doing it yourself and making it at home and being able to share it with your friends is a great concept.”
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