For the past five months, Chef Robbie Jester of Stone Balloon and his business partner, Tim Bolt, have been running Full Circle Food, a pre-made healthy meal delivery service.
In that time, Jester says they have gone from selling 18 meals a week to 400. As their subscription base has grown, Bolt and Jester have set their sights on the university in hopes of serving the campus community.
Nestled in a quiet kitchen in Landenberg, Pennsylvania, Full Circle Food sources local ingredients for pre-cooked and packaged meals. According to Jester, their approach both separates them from competitors and addresses a growing demand on campus.
“Especially when you compare us to Blue Apron and those guys, our meals are completely prepped, the most prep you’ll ever have to do with us is remove a sauce, microwave the meal, and then add the sauce back,” Jester says. “We do have a lot of people who will switch from those meal kit services to our service, because they find that while they want to cook at home, they just don’t have the time.”
Jester adds that while a health-conscious approach is not uncommon, Full Circle’s organic, locally-sourced component is a draw for students. With plans to add Newark businesses like Little Goat Coffee to their sources, he believes Full Circle will be better able to serve the university community.
Full Circle’s goals for serving campus align with the company’s founding, where honest, wholesome meals that people like have been a priority.
“I like that it started very modestly — we wanted a way to serve healthy meals, and get back to some of the meals that we loved and made in culinary school,” Jester says. “I think people like it, and just listening to people’s feedback and gauging what they like or not has been rewarding for us.”
Specifically, Jester laid out a new student plan. At $8.50 per meal for ten meals, Jester says the cost and nutritional value of the meals make them a competitive option for students, who might often spend more money on less healthy meals across campus.
For the Full Circle team, the student body is a unique market. Jester asserts that as today’s students are more health-minded than previous generations, Full Circle could occupy a relevant space in the college food market.
“I think the majority of college students now are focusing on healthy eating, and you see that with the emergence of Viva Bowls and Playa Bowls, students are clamoring for healthy options at places like El Diablo,” Jester says. “Once we had a parent reach out to us and say, ‘I really want my son to eat well at school and I want to buy your service for him,’ that’s when something really clicked for us.”
Upon expanding into the university and beyond, Jester is looking forward to a few ideas for improving the business.
“We’d love to include more local artisans that have healthy food products, but also this idea and concept that we could be on every college campus in America — we could also work with gyms in our state and other states as well,” Jester says. “Not to franchise yet, but to have these modular locations where we can still keep the food fresh and interesting, to serve a greater group of people.”