The popularity of the paleo diet has proved to be a fast track for growth for a Lenexa company. Four years ago, what would become Evolve Paleo Chef was a small personal chef service operating out of a home in Overland Park. Now it has seven locations — two in the metro area, two in Omaha and one each in Tulsa, Okla.; Lowell, Ark.; and Wichita.
The business fills a need for people who want to eat healthier but don’t necessarily have time to shop and cook, its owners say. Customers can order food deliveries on line, pre-cooked. The stores also feature juice bars.
“The goal really is to be a resource for people who want to eat healthier without hitting them over the head with it,” said Caleb Fechter, who is co-owner with Jason Fechter. The two recently answered a few questions about their business.
Q. Explain what you mean by paleo eating.
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“We were the healthiest as a human race when we were eating in this style,” Caleb Fechter said. The paleo eating style eschews gluten, grains, dairy and processed sugars in favor of whole foods. “It’s what our grandparents ate.”
Q. How does your business work?
Customers order what they want for the following week. They’re offered a choice of items on the website, with menus on an eight-week rotation. Customers can choose the amount they want. There are no subscription contracts. The food is then cooked and delivered to the customer’s door.
Q. How did you manage to grow so quickly from a small start?
Evolve started shortly after Caleb Fechter graduated from culinary school in 2012. He had been managing a restaurant when he decided to advertise his services as a personal chef, he said. His first client wanted to eat the paleo diet because of health concerns. “I figured I could cook pretty much anything,” he said.
An in-home day-care provider also contacted him about the paleo diet as a way to keep sugars and processed foods from causing energy peaks and valleys in the children, he said. Word spread from there until it became too big to keep on doing on a personal chef basis. Now Evolve has more than 800 clients in seven markets and employs 20 chefs plus additional staff, he said.
Q. How do you solve the logistical problems that go with home delivery of food?
Since food left out can pose a safety risk, Evolve takes several precautions to make sure someone is there to take delivery, Caleb Fechter said. Customers designate a three-hour window for their Sunday delivery. The driver then calls an hour ahead to make sure someone will be there, he said. If not, the food can be picked up at the store. Deliveries are not left on the porch.
Q. How do you and Jason split the business duties?
Caleb Fechter, a graduate of the Art Institute International in Lenexa, handles the food and menus; Jason Fechter, a chiropractor with a master’s in business administration degree, deals with the administrative and health side of the business.
Q. What has been your biggest learning experience with this business?
The first store was open only Sundays and Mondays, Jason Fechter said. Yet they were paying utilities and rent for the other days as well. The Fechters solved that by opening a cold-pressed juice bar in the store to help with the expenses. The juice bar had the additional advantage of bringing in people to learn about the meal delivery side of the business, Jason Fechter said.
Q. What are your biggest challenges?
Getting and training a great support team to keep the company growing is a continuing challenge, said Caleb Fechter. Cash flow can also be a challenge, since the company has expanded without large bank loans.
The challenge, he said, is, “Being OK with changes and constantly growing.”
Q. What do you see as your next opportunities?
The business is refining and fine-tuning what they’ve done so far, and perhaps considering new business relationships with a possibility for satellite stores and managing partners in the future, said Jason Fechter. The owners hope to open a Dallas location and possibly expand into Colorado in the next year or two.
In a nutshell
Company: Evolve Paleo Chef
Address: 8428 Melrose Drive, Lenexa