NBC Connecticut: March 2022
WECO Hospitality Breaks the Food Service Model, Offers Balanced Lives To Chefs
There is a brand new business in town and it is reimagining food service. As of Tuesday, WECO Hospitality is serving chef-made meals right to the front doors of families in Hartford, West Harford, and surrounding towns.
Their business model goes further than that. Among breaking the traditional model in other ways, WECO is helping chefs live more balanced lives.
Anyone would love the sight of a chef personally crafting dinner in their own kitchen. Now WECO Hospitality is bringing that reality one step closer.
Chef Matt Kenah might not be physically in your kitchen, but the fresh dishes he crafts during the day can be delivered right to your front door just in time for dinner.
For WECO’s culinary director, it is an opportunity to turn up the heat.
“There’s a ton of potential for creativity,” Kenah said. “Being able to cook with local ingredients all the time, and being able to change the menu every day, is incredible.”
It is also without the grind that chefs working in traditional restaurant kitchens typically face.
“It’s very demanding being a chef in a restaurant. I’ve been a chef for a long time. And the hours are insane,” Kenah said. “Late nights. Six days a week. I didn’t get to see my family as much as I would have liked to.”
It’s a tough situation for a dad of two young boys, and the pandemic turned things up. That’s when Kenah joined WECO Hospitality.
“There is another way,” he said. “Once the pandemic hit, the idea of a chef kind of got re-created.”
The arrival of COVID-19 didn’t just mean rethinking restaurants. WECO Founder and CEO Jennifer Freemont-Smith says when her business first launched in the Boston area in March of 2020, it aimed to help families stuck in lockdown and facing other challenges brought on by the pandemic.
“It was such a dark time, and so we started it to spread joy and light to our community,” Freemont-Smith said.
She says since then demand has grown, including in Hartford.
“WECO is just a better way to eat dinner at home,” Freemont-Smith said. “Every single day WECO chefs take the freshest ingredients, that are seasonally and locally sourced, and turn them into these incredible, delicious, family-style meals. That basically tastes like a chef lives with you and has been cooking all day for you.”
On top of that, a crucial part of their business model is local sourcing.
“I love that they source from local vendors. I love that they source sustainable, ethical food. I love that I know it’s fresh,” said Jeanne Barber, a customer in Farmington.
Knowing her kids are getting that food despite her hectic work schedule is a relief for the busy mom, and she is proud to buy from a female-owned business, supporting causes she can get behind.
“It is so cool to be able to know that you’re putting your money into a business that’s treating their employees well. I know that that doesn’t always happen in the food industry,” Barber said.
The new model is simultaneously putting smiles on the faces of her kids, and Kenah’s two sons.
“It’s not late Saturday nights, you’re not waiting for the bar crowd to clear out anymore,” Kenah said. “This has really given me the ability to be in my and my baby’s life, and be in my older son’s life as well. My older son knew me when I was a chef when I was working crazy hours, and now it’s this new experience, and it kind of allows you to grow as a father.”
WECO Hospitality is taking another big break from the traditional food service model by running on a “pay-what-you-want” model. They just charge customers for ingredients and a small delivery fee, and then it is up to the customers to decide what the meal is worth.
The WECO Hospitality website will indicate which areas in Connecticut are eligible for delivery. If you would like to try the service, they encourage you to send them an email. The company is adding more kitchens and expanding delivery to areas where there is high demand.