California Grill Meals 2021: A Restaurant Meal Delivery Service with a Difference
by Niko Kiouftis
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Niko Kiouftis, Founder of California Grill Meals (“CG Meals”), explains how he came up with the idea of delivering the freshest quality and most health-conscious meals to your door without sacrificing flavor or nutrition.
What inspired you to create CG Meals?
We’re first and foremost a restaurant, and I’ve owned many restaurants over the years. When COVID-19 hit, things changed somewhat, as we had regular customers who couldn’t get to us, and people started asking if we did a delivery service.
In response, we created CG Meals (CaliGrill Meal Prep). We rebranded and redid our restaurant and started delivering our meals. We’re now pretty much ready to franchise out and get going on the Commissary kitchens, enabling us to feed hubs in different areas, so as to reach new and existing customers. In essence, we can reach a wider audience.
We have a presence in 50 states already, including Alaska and Hawaii. We’ve gathered a lot of data and research and have seen where there are gaps in the market across the US.We decided to focus on California to start with.
We’ve launched our new website, packaging and branding, and we’ve built new installations and refrigerants. We plan to start doing some branding campaigns in the next couple of months to get our name out there to new customers. By January 2022 we’ll be in full swing.
How does your meal delivery service stand out from its competitors?
We’re bringing a restaurant experience to the comfort of your home. Our meals aren’t TV dinners or microwave meals like 99% of the companies out there. All our meals are vacuum-sealed, pre-packaged, sous-vide and ready to drop in a pot of hot water so you can eat them within 8-10 minutes. You can put them in the oven, air fry them, sauté them or boil them in the bag,
Please give us more detail on how COVID-19 changed your business.
We went completely virtual. I launched 21 virtual ghost kitchens but realized that we were only reaching our local customers. I wanted to go beyond that and reach existing and potential customers who were further afield.
We shipped our first order, then our second, and pretty soon we were a couple of thousand orders in, and active in 50 States. It’s been an amazing experience and has totally shifted our business model. We never thought that we would become an e-commerce business. We’re now definitely going to expand on this.
Where do you source your ingredients?
We use local producers, from the smallest independents up to the biggest companies like Cisco. So we source local and organic ingredients, and are trying to be as sustainable as possible –especially with our packaging.
From the making of the food to the recycling of our packaging – we’re doing our utmost to leave as little carbon footprint as possible.
Did you encounter any teething problems?
Absolutely! We faced numerous challenges, from logistics to food not arriving on time, from shipping methods to figuring out all the intricacies of transportation. However, we’re a young, dynamic and ambitious company and simply overcame each hurdle we met.
Our customer service is fantastic and I can say that customer feedback has been instrumental in our growth and success.
How easy is transporting fresh food produce and how do you keep it fresh?
Speed’s the name of the game. We deliver really fast, and everything’s shipped overnight. Freshness of food and longevity is guaranteed for 24 - 48 hours with the methods we use.
We do have custom insulation packages that are currently being built and should be delivered over the next couple of weeks. These will be a real game-changer.
How often do you introduce new recipes and where do you find inspiration?
I’m a Cordon Bleu chef by trade and I love food. I have many cooks and chefs working for us and we have incredible support. With all of this, we can get some phenomenal recipes from our team or even sometimes from customers.
What are your future plans for CG Meals?
We’d like to expand even further and branch out into complementary sectors. We’re trying to scale up but are doing it in a very comfortable way. We plan to move into sectors such as snacks, desserts and drinks, as some of our customers have very limited access to these.
Right now, going global will be something for the future. Our focus currently lies within the US of A.