Driving past the sign that says “Big Sky Diner” on Old State Route 74 in Batavia, you’d think the building is home to an unbeatable greasy spoon breakfast special. However, it houses quite the opposite. HealthSavor — the Tristate’s only organic, gluten-free and vegan-optional meal delivery service — took the diner’s place in May 2013.
“I was looking for the way that I could make the biggest possible positive impact on Greater Cincinnati, and I think I found it through healthy, organic, clean food and making it convenient for people,” says owner and chef Brandon Schlunt.
As a lifelong chef and former holistic nutrition consultant, Schlunt knows that people struggle with understanding what healthy means and how to actually incorporate it into their own lives and kitchens. HealthSavor was born from his desire to create meals that were both good for people and tasty, but also easy. The delivery service removes the prepping, planning and researching burden from the consumer and offers a solution to bridge the gap between wanting to eat healthier and actually doing it — minus the work.
The original HealthSavor, though still a meal delivery service, opened in 2010 under a different business model, which allowed customers to order as little as they wanted. This, Schlunt says, is what ultimately led to its failure. “We found ourselves driving across the city to deliver a $10 quinoa salad or something and it wasn’t worth it,” he says. “So after quickly running out of funds, we shut that down for a while.”
After re-evaluating HealthSavor’s prior business model and getting a push from some friends following a camping trip, Schlunt and business partner Kara Livesay relaunched with a new plan. Instead of delivering just one item, five entrées are required to complete an order. And customers can choose as many extra items as they want from additional entrées to breakfasts, desserts, juices and kids meals for a reasonable price. Meals arrive at your door in ready-to-heat containers with preparation instructions and nutrition information.
Menus are posted on Monday and customers have until Saturday at midnight to order. The five meals from the main menu come as vegetarian/vegan for $60 with a $5 upcharge for each animal protein you add. They also offer a second, personally tailored weight loss/diabetic/anti-inflammation/anti-candida organic menu starting $70 for five entrées, with a second tier at $105 that includes an additional two lunch items and three breakfast items. (Now through the end of Lent, HealthSavor will also offer a fish dish each week.)
“We don’t want this to be exclusively an upper-class thing. We want to be able to serve the people who need it the most,” Schlunt says.
The first week, HealthSavor served 15 people. Today they are serving more than 50 people a week.
Schlunt and Livesay begin grocery shopping on Saturday and usually finish on Sunday, while also simultaneously brainstorming the following week’s menu. They then spend all day Monday cooking, preparing and packing the meals for the Tuesday delivery to customers between 6-9:30 p.m.
“That all has to be cooked and prepared as fast as possible because it is never frozen. So the clock is ticking as soon as it’s made,” Schlunt says. The menu from the week of March 4 included kale lemonade, Thai lemongrass soup, caramelized-onion quiche, chicken Marsala and wild rice pilaf, chicken salad wraps and an avocado fudge-style Popsicle. Even if you’re a person who eats Apple Jacks for breakfast and three-ways for lunch on an almost regular basis, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the taste. HealthSavor proves that delivery food can be healthy and that healthy food can appeal to the general public’s taste.
“If you’re not even willing to try this, well, then you’ll never know that this tastes awesome,” Livesay says. “If you are willing to try it, then it speaks for itself. We’ve had a lot of people try our food and act completely shocked like, ‘Wow. This actually taste good.’”
HealthSavor recently partnered with Cincinnati-based organic farms Urban Greens and Life Aquatic Farm to set aside acres specifically for their use. As early as May, HealthSavor will not only be using organic produce, but also incorporating this locally grown and harvested produce into their meals.
Schlunt and Livesay have big dreams for the future of HealthSavor: They hope to add baby foods to their menu, implement food trucks and come up with packaging for the retail sale of their products. They also hope that other local chefs will hop on board and focus more on nutrition.
Even if none of this happens, though, they just want people to realize that eating healthy food offers a natural way to heal the body. It’s not just about selling food for Schlunt and Livesay; it’s about healing people. Eating healthy makes you healthy. “Food is medicine, and it’s not just a buzz word — it’s true. The only way we’re ever going to really impact disease rates is to make healthy, clean food convenient for everybody,” Schlunt says.