New choose-what-you-pay food prep service launching in Hartford area with ‘lasagna drop’ at local brewery
By Susan Dunne, on Wed
A new meal prep service that delivers locally sourced food to your door is expanding into the Hartford area starting March 22 and announcing its arrival with a lasagna event in West Hartford on March 5.
WECO Hospitality, co-founded in March 2020 and based in Acton, Massachusetts, drops new menus — full meals, kids’ meals and desserts — every Thursday at noon. Meals, prepared the morning of delivery, are delivered to homes Monday to Friday.
Starting March 22, WECO will deliver to homes in West Hartford, Avon, Canton, Bloomfield, Windsor, Simsbury, Farmington, Burlington, Windsor Locks, East Granby, Granby and Suffield. More towns will be added in phases.
WECO sources food from New England purveyors, including BOTL Farm in Ashford, Arethusa Farms in Bantam and Saugatuck Kitchens in Stratford.
The company has a unique payment system. Customers order online but, as in a restaurant, they do not pay for the meal until after it is eaten. Unlike a restaurant, however, customers decide how much to pay.
Jennifer Fremont-Smith, WECO CEO and co-founder, said the system “is totally crazy but we are really glad we did it.
“Our payment system is trust-based. We operate on the honor system. When you request food from us, we are going to cook it, package it, deliver it to your door. You are going to unbox it, heat it, plate it and eat it all before we’ve asked you for money,” Fremont-Smith said.
Each customer is emailed a payment invoice at 7 p.m. the night of the meal.
“We will only bill you the cost of ingredients [and a $6 per-day delivery fee],” she said. “Then we ask customers to add whatever they think is fair for our overhead, labor and love. Essentially, they’re paying the ingredient cost and whatever is reasonable that they consider to be the value of the meal.”
The system has worked, she said. “Our community is pretty good at covering the cost,” she said. “If they can afford to pay more, they do, and that allows us to serve those who pay a little less.”
On average, ingredient costs per person for main courses range from $9 to $13, for bowls $7 to $9 and for kids’ meals $5 to $7. Fremont-Smith said the menu can’t be more specific than that because the local farms where WECO buys food won’t know until the day the food is bought what they will charge for it.
WECO has gained popularity in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. In addition to Connecticut, WECO plans to expand to Maine and Rhode Island.
Every week, WECO studies customer requests to decide where to expand.
“There is this ever-growing chorus of people saying, please come to our town. It’s been that way from the beginning,” she said. “A lot of people have been asking us to come to Hartford. People in our areas buy gift cards give them to friends in Hartford. People in Hartford are saying, I want to use this card.”
The meals delivered to Hartford-area towns will be made in the commissary kitchen in Randolph, Massachusetts. Eventually, Fremont-Smith said, WECO will establish a kitchen in Connecticut.
Past menu selections have spanned the globe: Italian (potato gnocchi piccata, chicken marsala), Indian (chicken tikka masala, saag paneer), Mexican (beef barbacoa burritos, tacos shrimp al pastor), Chinese (mushroom lo mein, shrimp and basil fried rice), Japanese (pork belly miso ramen, soba noodle bowls), North African (Moroccan pot roast, harissa chicken), Thai (khao soi, sweet chili shrimp and rice bowl), Spanish (gambas al ajillo), Korean (bibimbap rice bowls), Vietnamese (banh mi) and French (choucroute garnie). WECO also serves a variety of American-style dishes such as roast pork loin, short ribs, salads with steak or chicken and fried chicken, as well as meatless selections, kids’ meals and desserts.
Fremont-Smith said meals sell out quickly, so those who want to buy them should log in as soon as possible after noon on Thursday. “We have customers who set alarms so they won’t forget,” she said.
WECO delivers meals from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Customers get a text the night before with an estimated delivery time. Those who can’t be home for delivery can leave a cooler on the doorstep.
WECO Hospitality will hold a “Limited Edition Lasagna Drop” on March 5 from 2 to 6 p.m. at New Park Brewing, 485 New Park Ave. Up to 200 customers can buy a WECO lasagna, meat or veggie, to be picked up there. To get a lasagna that day, register in advance at wecohospitality.com/secret-lasagna-drop.