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Thursday, December 1, 2016

Mod Meals Changes Hands. Ops, Ownership Shift to Semersky’s Hub 55

Posted By on Thu, Dec 1, 2016 at 2:57 PM

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Mod Meals, the one-year-old service that delivers chef-prepared heat-and-eat meals to your door, has changed hands. Rick Semersky, the man behind such notable projects as Hub 55, which includes Sterle’s Country House, Goldhorn Brewery and Café 55, confirms that he has taken over ownership from former CEO Bruce Teicher.

“We bought Mod Meals and our intention is to bring it into the Hub 55 project,” he says. “We’re still learning the ropes about what it is and what it can be. It’s a great product.”

Observant customers might have noticed over the past few months that notable Mod Meals chefs like Eric Williams (Momocho, El Carnicero), Karen Small (Flying Fig), Brian Okin (Cork & Cleaver, Graffiti), Jon Sawyer (Greenhouse Tavern, Trentina, Noodlecat) and Ben Bebenroth (Spice), who also happened to serve as the company’s Chief Culinary Officer, have disappeared from the ranks.

“We stopped preparing meals back in May,” explains chef Bebenroth. “It started off great, but we had some communication challenges between chefs and management.”

Issues like food items remaining for sale on the website longer than the chefs suggested, pricing disagreements, and unreasonable demands on food producers began eroding the relationship, he adds.

“If you’re going to do business with us, this is how it has to work,” Bebenroth reflects. “You understand business, we understand food.”

Bebenroth says that the product, execution and delivery aspect of Mod Meals was successful and popular. It was the business model, which was built around buying and reselling food from third-party chefs, that proved unworkable.

“The drivers were getting great tips, which tells you that people were appreciating the service and the product,” he says. “I thought it was a solid model.”

Semersky agrees.

“I think that model works really well if you bring it in-house and you know what your customers want and you continue to make the menu attractive to people,” the entrepreneur explains. “We have opportunities between Goldhorn, the Café [55] and Sterle’s that we have working for us. We can make anything.”

Of course, the fresh beer doesn’t hurt.

“Yeah, I thought the growlers would help tip the hat a bit too,” he jokes.

Both Bebenroth and Semersky firmly believe that the core feature of Mod Meals, that foods are built from the ground up for chilled delivery and home heating, is the best way to go. Chilled food is stable food, meaning that meals can be stocked and enjoyed immediately, later that evening, or even the following day or two.

“That is the best part of Mod Meals,” Semersky says. “The way they deliver the food, the way the food is prepped in order to get it to you I think is transformative. It’s not fully cooked, it’s not like a pizza that you’re waiting on for 40 minutes, it’s not something that was cooked 40 minutes ago.”

While it’s way too soon for Semersky to predict what changes will unfold down the line, shoppers will immediately see that new consulting chef Wilhelm Novak, who has worked at Wolfgang Puck eateries like Spago, Chinois and ObaChine Asian, has unveiled new dishes like chicken paprikash with homemade dumplings, pork shoulder goulash with egg noodles, and Wiener schnitzel with mashed potatoes.

And then there are those growlers filled with fresh-brewed Polka City pilsner, St. Clair stout, and Fire Plug pale ale.

Keep an eye on the Mod Meals website for new vendors, dishes and products.


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