1) When did you start MEALBOX?
Mealbox by Chef Will Birge: We started in 2019 with the idea of delivering restaurant quality meals all across the greater Omaha, NE metro area. Looking back, timing couldn’t have been better. By the time COVID hit, we were fully prepared for COVID protocols and already conduct no-contact deliveries.
2) Do you have an interesting or funny story from when you started?
WB: Prior to starting MEALBOX, I was the Executive Chef of an upscale steakhouse in Downtown Omaha. One day off work I was outside doing some detailing work on my truck with an X-acto knife. I dropped the knife in the grass and accidentally stepped on the blade, lodging it completely into my foot as I stood barefoot.
Long story short, the doctor failed to take an X-ray of my foot and sewed my foot up with the blade inside. For 10 days I was in agonizing pain until I went back to the doctor. A nurse took an X-ray and discovered the entire blade was in my foot. That day I had emergency surgery and was ordered to stay off my foot for several months as I had severe nerve damage.
I couldn’t stand the idea of being immobile for months and then I had the idea of grabbing my wife’s vanity chair and scooting around our kitchen with my knee rested on the chair. I thought if I can’t go back to work for months I might as well cook for friends and family in my kitchen. Then, through the power of social media, everyone started posting about the meals and raving about the flavors and convenience. At that moment, MEALBOX was born.
3) How many people do you employ?
WB: For the longest time, I was a solo operation in the kitchen. I cooked every single meal from beginning to end by myself and me and my wife would deliver all the meals. Staffing has been up and down the last couple years and will continue to be an issue across all industries. Today I am proud to say I have an incredibly well-rounded staff of 5 chef’s in the kitchen and we have 15 amazing drivers.
4) What’s a recent success you’ve had?
WB: A couple months ago I learned I was voted 1st Place Best Chef Omaha 2022 by Omaha Magazine. I am so honored to be able to cook delicious meals for my community and to receive this special recognition means the world to me and my family.
5) Do you have an online operation?
WB: Each week we post a brand new menu of individual and family size meal options. All orders are placed online for our weekly meal delivery at www.mealboxomaha.com. Pick your meals by Tuesday at Midnight for Sunday delivery to your door. For catering inquiries, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
6) Do you have a physical operation?
WB: Our commercial kitchen is located in the Benson neighborhood of Omaha, NE. We are fully licensed and insured and maintain an ‘Excellent’ rating with the Douglas County Health Department. Currently we do not have a storefront, so we exclusively deliver to homes and businesses across the area.
7) How are you managing COVID-19?
WB: We are fortunate COVID has not had a major effect on our business. Each week we perform contact-free deliveries to our customers to keep everyone safe. Our kitchen staff follows all of the COVID protocols as advised by the Douglas County Health Department.
8) What is the most interesting thing about MEALBOX?
WB: 2 words: Signature Sauces. People rave about our signature scratch-made sauces which typically are served on the side. Many people love the variety of new dishes we offer each week and enjoy drizzling on the sauces when the meals are hot and ready to eat. We are a 100% made from scratch kitchen utilizing high-quality, organic, and locally sourced ingredients where possible.
9) Do you operate locally, nationally or globally?
WB: At this time we deliver to the greater Omaha, NE metro area. This includes Papillion, Elkhorn, Bennington, Gretna, Waterloo, Valley, LaVista, Ralston, Bellevue, and Council Bluffs, IA. For customers who live outside of this area, we typically arrange a meeting place.
10) Does MEALBOX do anything for the holidays?
WB: For holidays and special times of the year, we like to offer special menus in place of the normal Sunday delivery. We are most known for our Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts that serve several people.
11) What keeps you motivated?
WB: This past we welcomed our daughter Audriana into the world. She is definitely what keeps us motivated to push hard every day and keep the family business growing.
12) What about food are you most passionate about?
WB: My passion for cooking comes from a deep appreciation and respect for quality ingredients, tradition, and simplicity. I love to draw inspiration from numerous types of cuisines around the world and apply my own twist. The ability to create and craft with no limits keep me driven each and every week.
13) What has changed most in the food industry over the course of your career?
WB: The drastic rise in food costs has been the largest challenge over the last few years. For example, a case of chicken has more than tripled in cost over the course of the last year. As a result, we shrunk our margins have shrunk and passed along a part of the rise in prices to the customers as to not sacrifice the quality of the product we deliver.
14) How do you find new customers?
WB: Word of mouth has been the biggest source for new customers. Being tagged on Facebook and Instagram has also been a great way to reach more new customers.
15) How does MEALBOX work?
WB: We offer weekly gourmet meal delivery and special occasion catering services. For our weekly meal service, we post a brand new menu every Wednesday. Pre-orders are due by Tuesday at Midnight for Sunday delivery between 9-2pm to your home, apartment, or business.
16) Can people subscribe to MEALBOX?
WB: MEALBOX offers a Loyalty & Rewards program you can sign up for on our website www.mealboxomaha.com to earn discounts from your purchases and referrals. We have no commitments to order so you are not locked into ordering each week.
17) Do you have a newsletter?
WB: We email out our new menu every week via our newsletter and include other fun updates. To subscribe to our newsletter, simply email us at email@example.com.
18) How does MEALBOX make the world a better place?
WB: Part of what makes MEALBOX special is we strive to maintain a sustainable mission of zero food waste by ordering just as much food as we need. In contrast to most restaurants, we can calculate the precise amounts to order based on our weekly totals.
Additionally, we participate in composting fruit and vegetable scraps, bones, fish products, bread, dairy products, egg shells, paper towel rolls, etc.
These practices assist in reducing the volume of food waste sent to landfills. We also encourage our customers to reuse and recycle their containers and join us all in an effort to create a more efficient and equitable food system.
19) What is your favorite state in the Midwest?
WB: Our home state Nebraska. I love the people and the weather (yes, call me crazy), and there’s no better sunsets.
20) What is your favorite state to travel to in the Midwest?
WB: Colorado. The mountains and wilderness are just breathtaking. I loved seeing all the wildlife and camping out. My wife is an avid skier and loves hiking in the summertime.
21) Introduce yourself:
WB: My name is Will Birge and I am the Executive Chef of MEALBOX. My wife Rachel and I started the business in 2019 with the idea of delivering premium-quality, ready-to-eat meals to the greater Omaha, NE area. Previously I was Executive Chef at an upscale restaurant in the Old Market (Downtown Omaha). I’ve been in the industry for 18 years and love working with fresh ingredients and creating unique blends of flavors.