Food is no longer just a means of sustenance or a way of building community. It has become a way to explore the world, to express yourself artistically, and often to celebrate. With the recent popularity of cooking television and the rise of celebrity chefs, the appeal and approachability of eating well has never been higher.
Pop-Up Pantry is a startup created to bring the best of gourmet foodie culture to anyone who wants it. It delivers three course meals for two by subscription service at a cost of approximately $35 to $40 per meal (depending on frequency of order).
Unfortunately, many Americans are either too busy to enjoy the best the culinary world has to offer or otherwise they live in “food deserts” where healthy food options are scarce, let alone high-end restaurants or upscale grocery stores. In extreme cases, people are eating predominantly at fast food restaurants, convenience stores, liquor stores, or mall food courts.
Co-founder David Hauslaib says, “Americans deserve better. All of our meals are restaurant-quality, created by top chefs.” All food delivered by the company is blast-chilled to -40 degrees Celsius, which both eliminates any pathogens and preserves freshness and flavor. Preparation instructions are included and are typically as simple as boiling water.
These aren’t 3,600 calorie supersized drive-thru meals, that’s for sure. But they’re not diet food either. The food is high end but approachable and with a mind toward healthfulness. “Our success is not just in delivering food though,” says Hauslaib. “It’s in educating customers on eating well.”
The company’s menu includes a wide variety of cuisine, from Asian to French to American. In the future, they hope to add gluten-free, vegetarian, and even children’s meal options. The goal is that customers look to Pop-Up Pantry as a regular, long-term meal solution, ordering it as often as one to three times per week.
The Los Angeles-based startup recently graduated from the LaunchpadLA incubator. I asked Hauslaib about applying for a place in the highly sought after inaugural class when neither he nor his co-founder Tom Balamaci have technical or culinary backgrounds.
“We just fed them,” Hauslaib said. “We knew it would be a challenge, but we hired two executive chefs and designed a full menu of three courses meals. When we served it to the Launchpad investors, they couldn’t say no.”
What the founding pair knows is business, branding, and marketing. Hauslaib built and sold a successful lifestyle media company called Jossip. Balamaci spent a career in SaaS sales. Together, they have masterminded Pop-Up Pantry to deliver a product that they wanted but couldn’t find anywhere else.
It’s natural for those with a vested interest in a startup to speak highly of the product. But the buzz around Pop-Up Pantry’s meals is borderline fanatical. People literally can’t get enough of their food.
The company has been in a private alpha launch for a few months during which time it invited in 80 customers and served approximately 200 meals for two. The meals weren’t free, as might be expected. All customer paid in full. They will be rolling out into a much larger private beta in the coming weeks (request an invite here) and hope to launch the product publicly by the end of summer.
Beyond the limited early financing taken in through its incubator program, the founders have bootstrapped the operation to date. They have been riding their early praise to productive conversations with a number of VC firms and hinted at a probable Series A financing announcement in the near future.
As a wannabe foodie myself, I’m excited to see where this company goes. There’s tons of room for partnerships with celebrity chefs, cooking shows, and other brands. What’s even more interesting is the possibility of creating celebrity chefs from talented unknowns that they bring on board. Here’s to dining well and not lifting a finger to do it.
[Illustration by Hallie Bateman]