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Author Chené Murphy
Chené Murphy
Updated on Nov 22nd, 2022
Fact checked by Emma Vince

WEAT 2023: Where Chefs Share Their Stories + Their Food

Co-founded by Melanie Brown and Laura Balcazar, WEAT is a community-focused, mission-driven company that saw an opportunity to help small, independent restaurants tap into new markets through offering unique meal kits and specialty groceries.  

In this interview, Melanie and Laura share their journey in connecting local restaurants with their communities.

What was the inspiration for starting WEAT and when was it launched?

Melanie Brown (MB): Laura and I have always been passionate about the importance of protecting small businesses. We also believe in the power that can be unlocked through technology. When the pandemic hit, and we saw restaurant after restaurant shut its doors, we knew we had to get involved. 

WEAT was born late last year, with the single purpose of helping restaurants activate new revenue streams, while allowing chefs and owners to connect with diners in new ways.

Meal kits, largely a product of the pandemic, were the natural first step. Our kits are amazing because the food is already mostly prepared, so it’s super quick yet literally fresh out of the oven, and they come with staff-curated playlists and chef-led tutorials to really set the vibe. They’re so fun! 

What sets WEAT aside from other delivery platforms?

Laura Balcazar (LB): The biggest factor that sets us apart from other platforms is our commitment to the partners we work with. We started this journey to find a more economical way for restaurants to recreate their dine-in experience at home. Traditional take-out options charge a 30% commission and are often viewed by restaurants as a marketing expense because sometimes they even lose money on orders. We work with partners to ensure they are making healthy margins.

We also believe strongly in the fair treatment of the delivery teams we work with – we only partner with logistics services that pay their employees a fair salary and pass on any tips directly to the teams on the ground. 

What were some of the challenges you faced when starting out?

LB: When starting a small business, everything is a challenge! One of the biggest has been navigating new regulations coming from the COVID-19 pandemic. Ensuring the safety of our staff, restaurant partners, and customers is of the utmost importance to us, and it’s never been harder than during these uncertain – and rapidly evolving – times. 

Logistics in NYC are also always a challenge, but we’ve been pleasantly surprised by the partners we’ve found who help facilitate this process.

How do you maintain quality despite relying on partner delivery?

MB: Quality customer service is of the utmost importance to our team. We know that – especially when it comes to food – it can be incredibly frustrating to have a delayed order. To protect our customers and their experience, we are very selective in the logistics partners we work with. We work with salaried professionals with extensive experience in the delivery space.

We have a wide delivery window – but customers are welcome to contact our customer service with special requests and we’ll do our best to get it done.

Do you have certain criteria when partnering with a restaurant?

LB: Yes, 100%. Food safety and quality are obviously a must. Beyond that, we also care a lot about finding independent restaurants that employ people from under-represented backgrounds. 

During these unprecedented times, we want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to lift those communities who are suffering the most from the various effects of the pandemic while giving chefs a space to tell their story. For similar reasons, we love partnering with restaurants serving ethnic cuisines, which are more at risk of being overlooked on the traditional delivery platforms.

Could you talk us through the WEAT customer-ordering process?

MB: Start by heading to our website, and select your favorite kit, or treat it more like a specialty grocery site and order multiple things! Remember that you need to place orders before Tuesday at 5 pm to receive your kit that Friday. After you check out, you should receive a confirmation email. Your box will arrive on Friday between 3 and 7 pm. 

Please feel free to email our customer support team with any questions – we try our best to accommodate special requests!

What is your personal favorite Discovery Box?

MB: It’s impossible to pick! But I can’t talk enough about the kit from our newest partner, Cocina Consuelo. The owners are a couple – Lalo and Kari – who were laid off from top-tier NYC restaurants during the heart of the pandemic. The menu is inspired by Mexican dishes that Lalo’s grandmother used to make, which Kari prepares to make him feel more at home in NYC. You can watch the instructional video to get the full story!

LB: Agreed. We love them all. The last one I had was Miss Lily’s Jerk Chicken. It’s so, so juicy and delicious. It’s our best seller and a real crowd-pleaser. We had one customer order this three weeks straight! 

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