Sarah Van Dell has been that office worker who's stuck at her desk with a sad lunch. As a senior director working on health care issues at the Advisory Board Company for more than three years, she says she became addicted to work and rarely got a proper lunch break.
“You kind of give yourself these deadlines like, ‘I’m not going to leave my desk until I get this done,' and that’s how I was," she says. Her office became a revolving door for colleagues on her large team. "I never found a great way to eat. I put on 20 pounds since working there, and it was because I just did not pay attention to what I was eating."
Van Dell is now looking to cure "sad desk lunch" with Cozy Feast, a delivery service launching this fall that will cater to office workers. The idea was born out of a conversation with friends over drinks about how they want good homemade food but don't want to cook it.
Initially, Van Dell had the idea to create an eating club of sorts where her neighbors would share their leftovers. She went door-to-door in her 200-unit apartment building near U Street NW and found around 55 people who were interested in participating. "But really when it came down to it, they just wanted to eat someone's food," Van Dell says. Hardly anybody wanted to cook. "It was a total failure."
Instead, Van Dell took inspiration from the dabbawalas who deliver hot lunches to workers in India, which she'd studied during business school. She decided to do something similar, delivering homecooked meals to office workers in vacuum-insulated lunchboxes or tiffins, which wouldn't feel as much like takeout.
Cozy Feast plans to test a limited number of office buildings to start this summer. The idea is that offices will have bins to put their used tiffins in, and Cozy Feast will collect them after lunch and wash them. Van Dell says the tentative plan is that people would have up until 10:45 a.m. to order their meals, which will be prepared out of food incubator Mell Hall.
Chef David Shewmaker, the opening chef at Meridian Pint, will prepare the menu. Cozy Feast will offer three options: a chef's seasonal meal, a vegetarian/vegan meal, or comfort food. Van Dell aims to price the offerings around $9 to $12.
Cozy Feast recently launched a Kickstarter campaign with the goal of raising $41,200. The money will determine how fast the service can scale up.