Tampa, Florida-based mostly FitLife Food items faces a aggressive landscape reshaped by the pandemic and a proliferation of meal-delivery products and services. | Business enterprise Observer

Devoid of a doubt, 2020, with a substantial shift to takeout and shipping and delivery orders, was a calendar year of reckoning for the cafe and foodservice marketplace. And 2021’s source-chain and labor shortage troubles have only extra to the complicated new actuality for organizations these kinds of as Fitlife Foods, a 10-yr-outdated Tampa firm with a foothold in both of those shipping and delivery and brick-and-mortar operations.

Started by David Osterweil, Fitlife has designed a distinctive area of interest for itself in the foodservice sector. It has 13 retail spots in the Orlando, Sarasota and Tampa Bay marketplaces, a culinary and foodstuff creation middle in Plant Metropolis and, in its initial foray across state lines, a keep in Atlanta. Clients can decide up wholesome, prepared-to-take in foods at any of the outlets, or have them shipped in reusable, environmentally welcoming deals.

But what truly sets Fitlife aside is a dedication to being more than just a food supplier — akin to how Peloton has transcended its standing as a producer of training machines. Osterweil’s enterprise introduced a method, known as Undertaking U Wellness, that provides complimentary nutritional and workout coaching, delivered by certified wellness trainers, to consumers.

“We’re usually wanting to connect on an emotionally deeper amount with our buyer,” suggests Osterweil, 44, a previous govt with Bloomin’ Brand names, the publicly traded Tampa corporation that owns and operates Outback Steakhouse and other common restaurant concepts. “You’re never ever satisfied — you often have to be pushing issues even further, innovating and accomplishing additional for your clients and your staff.”

‘I’m so incredibly very pleased of this group and what they have been able to do, since it wasn’t about, “Hey, let us just attempt to hold on throughout this.” It was about how do we drive ahead.’ David Osterweil, founder and CEO of Fitlife Foods

Nonetheless, the lane Fitlife had mainly to itself 10 a long time in the past has become more and more congested, with adjacent models such as Blue Apron and HelloFresh — which focus in home shipping of food kits, somewhat than completely ready dishes — speedily getting sector share. The restricted labor market is another growth constraint: Osterweil states goliaths this sort of as Amazon and Publix, equally of which have a significant existence in the Lakeland/Plant Town place, generally outmuscle Fitlife when it comes to the competitors for superior faculty and college or university graduates.

“We’re under no circumstances likely to be equipped to compete with Publix or Amazon on value and wage,” he states. “We just simply cannot keep up from that perspective.”

As pressures and threats mount, how does Fitlife plan to sustain its leadership situation and make excellent on Osterweil’s system to function in all 50 U.S. states?

Talent Display

Osterweil continuously stresses the value of Fitlife’s organization lifestyle and employing techniques as successful elements in the firm’s growth to much more than 200 employees.

“We may well be 50 cents considerably less from a compensation standpoint, but we give out tremendous onboarding incentives,” he suggests. “We’re likely to do our ideal to feed you, energize you and build a fantastic workforce member.”

Fitlife recruits faculty graduates who are interested in careers in fields these kinds of as nutrition, nutritional science and well being and wellness. Osterweil is Alright with the simple fact that some may well use the chance as a stepping stone to something else, but turnover has been small, primarily considering the labor chaos of the pandemic.

File. Fitlife Foods delivers and sells additional than 10,000 meals for each working day. The foods are well prepared and packaged at the firm’s culinary operations center in Plant Town.

“A position in our shops features an chance to get their ft soaked, but it can be a pretty reason-driven role,” Osterweil says. Our men and women know they’re not just doing work there for a paycheck. I intended the position extra than 10 decades ago for people who ended up coming out of college with a health and fitness and wellness track record and needed that initially experience of talking to buyers.”

Getting in-retail outlet, retail workers, while, intended Fitlife experienced to offer with some sidelined staff users for the duration of the pandemic.

“Like each individual business,” Osterweil claims, “we professional an specific or team of men and women who would be out for prolonged intervals of time. But I would say all round, we we have been fairly fortuitous.”

Osterweil was decided not to enable the turmoil and uncertainty of the pandemic disrupt his designs for Fitlife. He doubled down on menu innovation and hired a new CFO, director of culinary center operations and head of acquiring.

“We created some awesome, important hires,” he says. “We changed our packaging, up-to-date our branding, released a shop in Atlanta … we just kept concentrating and innovating. I’m so incredibly proud of this staff and what they have been ready to do, since it wasn’t about, ‘Hey, let’s just consider to hold on throughout this.’ It was about how do we force forward.”

Osterweil declines to disclose Fitlife’s gross profits but suggests the company has been rising steadily, all-around 25-30% annually over the previous couple yrs, including 2020, and he expects 2021 to produce similar outcomes. A much better indicator could possibly be the amount of foods for each day — “north of 10,000,” Osterweil says — Fitlife sells. With meal shipping programs priced from $89.95 for 6 little meals to $169.95 for 12 huge meals, in addition to in-store retail revenue, a wholesome income stream does not seem to be to be a difficulty for Fitlife.

Style OF Achievement

Yet another key to Fitlife’s remaining electrical power is its willingness to tinker with the effective recipes that helped propel it to breakout success. The company’s new director of culinary innovation and government chef, Chris Austin, was in fact hired to do just that.

A native of Tampa, Austin lived and worked in California for approximately two decades just before returning to his roots in 2017 when he joined the College of Tampa as its government chef. His culinary odyssey also contains stints with Total Food items Marketplace and Sonoma Point out College. At the California Culinary Academy, he been given the prestigious James Beard Scholarship for Excellence and graduated with honors.

“What I like about chef Chris is he’s from Tampa he has some fantastic area roots,” Osterweil suggests. “He has a enjoy and enthusiasm for food stuff. I’ve worked with a ton of cooks over the course of my career, no matter if at Fitlife or my time at Bloomin’ Brands, and I have just never seen a enthusiasm like Chris’s just before, and it arrives out in the food stuff. The objects he’s been able to put out for our prospects have gotten rave testimonials. And at the conclusion of the day, people today are going to occur back again to use due to the fact of the foods.”

Austin, Osterweil says, in essence has carte blanche to revamp even the most well known Fitlife dishes, these as its barbecue beef with mac and cheese, an merchandise that is been on the company’s menu since the beginning.

“It’s our variety-a person product,” Osterweil says. “People really like it, and he took it to this whole other degree. He infused butternut squash into the mac and cheese, supplying it a ‘hidden’ vegetable. He included Mexican cauliflower rice to our enchilada. He’s designed some thrilling all-new dishes, like margherita flatbread pizza and Cuban beef picadillo.”

Austin, who comes from a good-eating background — a person of his first positions was at Mise en Place, a extremely regarded Tampa eatery — claims the most significant obstacle at Fitlife, which employed him about a 12 months back, is to come up with dishes that conform to rigid dietary guidelines.

“In fine eating, we can fatten you up actual quick,” he states, adding his objective is to create 40 new Fitlife foods per 12 months. “It’s a huge menu, so I want to modernize some of the dishes that have been on the menu a extensive time, and see the place I can include extra diet.”

Austin has some large suggestions for Fitlife, such as combining southeast Asian cuisine with standard American comfort and ease meals. At Complete Foods, creativity wasn’t a issue for him: he designed extra than 500 recipes all through his time there. He methods his career in an artistic way, sketching out what the meal would search like on a plate, in advance of delving into the scientific facet of the approach, which involves not only diet, but also the way distinctive meals react to the modified atmospheric packaging that Fitlife makes use of to continue to keep its meals fresh for customers.

“To be ready to be as artistic as I want and have it be acknowledged, that’s huge for me,” Austin claims, introducing he could not be far more fired up to be component of Fitlife at this level in the company’s expansion and growth. “I see us shipping all around the region we’re obtaining near, we’re acquiring there. We’ll have culinary facilities opening up close to the United States. I imagine it is likely to be big.”

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