Fast-casual restaurant chains, such as Panera Bread and Chipotle, have gained market share in recent years. They offer fresher fare than traditional fast food joints, but maintain the speed and convenience of counter service. Omaha-based Eat Fit Go ups the ante with an even faster and arguably healthier option for consumers on the go.
“I think, in general, the public is going through a food revolution,” says Eat Fit Go owner Aaron McKeever. “Everybody is kind of going towards that health conscious customer. And that’s definitely us. We’re convenience, grab, and go.”
McKeever’s three Omaha stores have large refrigerators stocked with a wide variety of pre-packaged meals and snacks. Every package clearly lists nutritional information and nearly all of them have fewer than 600 calories. There are microwaves for customers to heat up their meals if they choose to dine in.
“When we put this concept together, my partner, Sam (Vakhidov), and I wanted the feeling of a Starbucks-meets-an-Apple-Store. It’s fresh, it’s inviting, you can stay,” says McKeever.
This isn’t McKeever’s first foray into restaurants or retail. Twenty years ago he started in business with a car dealership and is a former owner of Pitch Pizzeria and Jams Bar & Grill. He says he recently sold his shares in his other restaurants because “at the rate we’re growing with (Eat Fit Go), this needs my focus.”
He is not the company’s only industry veteran. Executive Chef Karl Marsh is the vice president of kitchen operations and comes up with several of the menu ideas.
Sitting at a table in the stylish Aksarben Village location, McKeever explains that they have a range of customers with different dietary needs, including people on low calorie, gluten-free, and diabetic-friendly diets. He says athletes like it because they know exactly what they are putting in their bodies.
One of his regular customers is Brandon Howell. A member of the Right at Home corporate marketing team, Howell says he likes that he can walk to the store from his Aksarben Village office.
“I usually eat lunch there about three times a week, and then I maybe grab dinner twice a week from there,” says Howell. “Really, with me trying to lose weight, it’s the calories that are in the meals, the portion control, the ease of it.”
Howell lives alone and says he doesn’t always want to cook in large batches for himself. He also points out that Eat Fit Go is teaching him about appropriate portion sizes and what is possible to prepare on his own. NOLA’s Dirty Rice and the All American breakfast are his favorites.
“It’s all very high-quality food, and it all tastes good,” says Howell. “That breakfast is like 320 calories, and I struggle to finish it.”
McKeever says his target customers were originally soccer moms who didn’t have time to cook but wanted their kids to eat something healthy on the way to activities.
“I think that the biggest thing with this concept—this grab-and-go concept—is changing people’s lifestyles. They want a healthy option that really hasn’t been out there in terms of convenience. I think that making dinner now at home is a luxury,” says McKeever.
The company is developing a kids’ menu and vegetarian entrees. As the organization expands and more franchises are sold around the country, each market will have a central, corporate-run kitchen that supplies the franchisees with meals.
The first corporate-owned Eat Fit Go locations opened in early 2016 in Omaha, with franchises set to open in several Midwestern cities and as far away as Atlanta and Scottsdale, Arizona.
“They should put one by my house, too, and take all of my money,” says Howell.
Visit eatfitgo.com for more information. B2B