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Patch NH: December 29, 2021

WECO’s Locally Sourced Meals Service To Expand Into New Hampshire

Acton, Massachusetts-based WECO Hospitality’s delivery service will be available in Merrimack, Nashua, Salem, other communities in 2022.

Posted by Tony Schinella on

WECO Hospitality, a Massachusetts-based meal delivery service that focuses on local products and sustainability, is expanding its delivery footprint into more than a dozen Southern New Hampshire communities. (WECO Hospitality)

NASHUA, NH — Granite Staters who do not want to cook meals for themselves and want access to locally sourced food preparation services will have a new option beginning in 2022.

WECO Hospitality, an Acton, Massachusetts-based meal delivery service, is expanding into southern New Hampshire beginning in January. The first round of the company’s expansion into the state will include Amherst, Londonderry, Merrimack, Milford, Nashua, Salem, Windham, and a number of surrounding communities.

According to Jennifer Fremont-Smith, the CEO and co-founder of the company, when roughly 10 customers in those communities start ordering prepared meals from WECO, “on a regular basis,” the company will commit to in-person delivery of the meals, appetizers, and drinks to those towns.

Unlike some meal delivery services, which are subscription-based models and delivered by the postal service or UPS, with ingredients from everywhere, WECO focuses on local products and personal delivery service.

There is also an entire process of ensuring access to the meals and committed orders that is not like other delivery services.

Customers in the delivery communities subscribe to the WECO’s weekly email which is sent out around noon on Thursdays. This email features all of the meals to be prepared for the following week, for each day, Fremont-Smith said. The menu for the week usually includes around two dozen items, five per day, including full meals, children’s meals, appetizers, soups, and cocktail mixers, too, she said.

“It is centered around dinner,” Fremont-Smith said, but customers can eat the meals whenever they like. “There is a tremendous amount of variety … based on what is in season and can be procured locally.”

Customers commit to buying a meal or meals on prep day but they have to act quickly — sometimes, the meals sell out within minutes, she said.

On Friday, the WECO chefs have a rough idea of how many meals they need to prepare as well as the ingredients needed for the dishes, she said. Each day the next week, the meals are prepared and packaged for delivery. The meal is then delivered to the customer’s home before 5 p.m.

After receiving the meal and enjoying it, another email is sent to the customer requesting payment. That email tells the customer what the ingredients and other costs were. The customer then adds “what they think is fair, to cover all the other efforts, overhead, labor, and love,” Fremont-Smith said. The per-serving cost tends to be in the $5 to $9 range.

“Typically, our customers will double the ingredient cost,” she said. “It works out … it is so amazing (and) truly fill our hearts every day — it’s clear our customers are pretty good at determining the right price.”

Fremont-Smith said the production of the food is not simple; WECO offers “complex meals.” It is “precisely for this experience that customers get that and value that,” she said.

Fremont-Smith, who describes herself as a “serial entrepreneur,” has been involved with both technology and hospitality startups. At least six of her team members came to WECO from restaurant businesses. All of the employees have seen the struggles of the industry while also trying to build their careers.

Those hardships, too, were acerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic, when eateries began closing and employees lost their jobs. WECO employees had “a front-row seat” to all that was going on when the company started.

“(It was) a dark and scary time,” she said, for a lot of people.

Many of those establishments, she said, have not returned. At the same time, people feared venturing out — not only to visit the remaining restaurants that were still open but grocery shopping, too. Others were also sick of cooking or home-bound or cooking every day, she said. That was when a lightbulb went off.

What started as a concept to find ways of bringing good food to residents in northern and central Massachusetts led to servicing more than 100 communities and in January, the expansion into New Hampshire.

Fremont-Smith said she had been lucky to have “a dedicated staff” to take on this endeavor, combining “a certain kind of magic” to provide quality meals that support community companies and farms, while focused on regenerative and sustainable agriculture and ethical treatment of animals. It is not, she said, like any other food service job. Too much of the business, she said, is “I-focused … industrial extracted,” factory farming, and principles that are more about the bottom-line instead of quality.

“We are building community around good food,” Fremont-Smith said, “with a group of people who work so hard to make this food and deliver it.”

Much of that mission was also about changing the employment dynamic; Fremont-Smith said WECO “flipped that script” to provide her team members with balanced schedules, vacation time, and other benefits.

“We are closed this week,” she noted on Tuesday.

Some of the menu items for the week before Christmas included oolong tea braised short ribs with alliums, Baja shrimp tacos, and roasted chicken ramen; pre-Christmas orders for the holiday weekend included Shepherd’s pie with lamb and beef, beef bourguignon, and baked ziti with chicken.

“The WECO fam,” which is what she calls customers, has also allowed the company to grow, leading from one town to the next. Getting to critical mass while also expanding delivery routes and trying to sustain quality and customers will be a bit tricky. The company has two kitchens, in Acton and Randolph, as well as a team of employees like packers and drivers.

“We are carefully looking at how we can grow that capacity to make the demand,” Fremont-Smith said, “while preserving handcrafting, chef-designed, chef-produced food … it is so core to what we do; our standards are exceptionally high.”

Non-Patch communities as part of the New Hampshire expansion include Brookline, Derry, Greenville, Hollis, Hudson, Litchfield, Mason, Pelham, and Wilton.

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