As the COVID-19 era rages on in New Jersey, more people are getting food delivered, and meal delivery business like Eat Clean Bro—founded in 2013 with the busy gym rat in mind—are uniquely prepared to answer the call, with infrastructure like in-house cooking and delivery teams, customer contacts, and a large media presence.
Like many in the food industry during the coronavirus pandemic, founders Kayla and Jamie Giovinazzo are sharing the wealth with their communities. Not only are they donating to local food pantries, they recently put restaurants like Tré Pizza, Rosalita’s Roadside Cantina, and Osteria Cucina Rustica up on the Eat Clean Bro website, a platform with serious reach. We caught up with Giovinazzo on April 1 to ask how the coronavirus has impacted business in general and why he chose to share his company’s platform.
Table Hopping: It’s strange to say, but it almost seems like Eat Clean Bro was made for times like these.
Jamie Giovinazzo: We are. It’s extremely unfortunate circumstances, but in a way it’s helpful that we’re the ideal business for this kind of crisis. We were ready to go. I just wish we had more to offer. I was talking to my staff about this. If we had a bigger building, and I could stock it, we would do paper towels, medicine, all that type of stuff. Home good necessities. It’s something I always wanted to do down the road. Once I have a new building, I’ll add on all types of stuff that’s not food-related. I have a lot of disabled elderly customers who can’t leave their homes. The more I can help these people live a normal life, the better.
TH: Did you notice a spike in business as the coronavirus impact increased?
JG: The data suggests a lot of our old customers came back. Things have leveled out now, but we did have an enormous surge maybe three weeks ago.
TH: Did that surprise you?
JG: No… Eat Clean Bro always catered to people who didn’t have time to cook good, healthy food. Now, with the quarantine and social distancing, Eat Clean Bro is also a safe reliable delivery service.
TH: And you said it’s return customers?
JG: We are getting new customers, but the big sales are return, for a number of reasons: old customers come back because they know we’re a reliable, safe delivery service; and existing customers did start buying additional meals to freeze. The staggering fact, though, is a lot of existing customers came back, and came back hard.
TH: You’re in 16 states, plus D.C., but you added a few New Jersey restaurants to the Eat Clean Bro platform (along with a couple Atlanta-area restaurants). Why?
JG: Business in Atlanta definitely picked up, but my stronghold is New Jersey. It’s a very strong New Jersey company. A lot of Jersey loyalty. I’ve always loved restaurants, and to see some of my friends in the business devastated this way, I needed to do something. So I threw some of their stuff onto my website. We’ve been raising like $10,000 a week for these guys. It’s not bailing them out, but at least it’s putting a little money in their pocket.
TH: It has to be gratifying to be able to offer such a platform.
JG: I’m just so happy to be able to be here for the community in a time of need. During Hurricane Sandy, I was bartending and I’d given up on my dream to do this business because I failed so many times. My mom, grandma, uncle—they all lost their homes during Sandy. I lost the house where I grew up, my grandmother’s house in Lawrence Harbor. I never forgot how horrible it felt that I couldn’t help my family and my community. That year, I made a resolution. Going into 2013, no matter what happened, I’d never be in that helpless place again. In two weeks, my phone rang. It was my original investor for Eat Clean Bro. He asked me if I was still cooking. I lied, took the last $300 I had from bartending, and started cooking. We’ve been guns blazing ever since.
TH: How did you choose the restaurants you’re showcasing on the site?
JG: I’m connected to all of them. Eat Clean Bro really took root and developed into a business when I started cooking out of Nonna’s, part of [Great Restaurant’s NJ] restaurant group [home to Tre Pizza and Rosalita’s]. Rob Kash and Joe Mosco were mentors to me. I used to work for them, bartending for them. They always mentored me in business. When I was jumping around from restaurant to local restaurant for Eat Clean Bro, I asked Joe ‘Can I come cook at your restaurant?’ Instead of trying to weasel out equity or something, they just let me grow my business. A lot of people were trying to strong-arm ownership for the space I needed at the time. I wouldn’t be where I was today if it wasn’t for them.
TH: Speaking of, how is your staff coping with all of this?
JG: I have over 100 employees here. And one of the greatest things about this is my staff has inspired the hell out of me. I have staff who’ve had their mom and dad laid off say “Jamie, I’m so happy to have a job.” I’m really proud of my staff. I could cry thinking about them.
TH: Have you had any issues getting product?
JG: My purveyor has taken a pretty substantial blow. I don’t have an issue getting product right now. Supposedly they’re having some issues with West Coast produce, issues with spinach, slaw mixes, spring mix, cucumbers. But at the end of the day, if we eighty-six an item, people aren’t going onto Yelp right now to give bad reviews. People are happy to get food. And water, we also sell water. And we just threw coffee on there.
TH: As for adding new products, and your larger space planned for this year, do you see the business continuing to evolve even after COVID restrictions die down?
JG: I always wanted to be an online food market, an online food court. I knew my refrigerated vans and infrastructure would always be the foundation. And this was the perfect reason to launch the idea—a charitable reason to grow. And we’re getting there.
In addition to delivery, Eat Clean Bro is doing COVID-era merchandise, e.g. free “Wash Your Hands Bro” T-shirts for first responders and health care pros. They also recently held a giveaway of a $100 gift card for the person with the funniest “Stay Home Bro” COVID-era lockdown story.Click here to leave a comment