Wednesday, November 21, 2012 / 1:34 PM
At age 50, Ben Stratton wanted to lose some weight and wanted the loss to last. Like most of us who've ever gone on a diet (which. let's face it, is most of us), he would lose a few pounds only to gain it back. After a victorious 3 month bout to knock off what I refer to as "the ugly 20," the owner of two Stratton's Cafes (in Webster Groves and Clayton) was vacationing in Florida when it hit him: it was becoming almost impossible to eat out and eat right. Only part-selfishly, he told himself that his next restaurant would be something "health-based." And so the journey began.
Doing research, he realized that "eating healthy was not convenient, anywhere," and came up with a concept that was. Thinking the process through, he realized that for most of us, the goal of eating healthy is not so much to be healthy but to be fit, so the focus shifted to fit foods, "trainer-inspired foods" as he calls them.
So starting January 1, he will launch "FitFuel 365," a line of refrigerated, grab-and-go, three-meal-a-day food items. And since Stratton's research showed that desserts and snacks are the # 1 seller with other weight loss food programs, they will play large role in FitFuel as well. Meals will be priced at $7 to $12 for lunch and dinner, $4-$4.50 for breakfast, and snacks less expensive than that. All items will be made using fresh ingredients ("organic where we can"), packaged fresh, and will of course bear nutrition labels. Many will be low-gluten or gluten-free, as "gluten is counter to losing weight," according to Stratton.
A 60-unit Texas-based concept (My Fit Foods) follows the same model, Stratton says, and has locations "not so much in places that are healthy but in places that need to be healthy." (I'll leave any comparisons to our little burb to the reader.) The only similar concept here is Metabolic Meals, a delivery-only company where customers must order a week's worth of meals at a time.
FitFuel 365 will be more flexible just because it can be. Stratton will launch the concept from his Clayton cafe where there's ample production capacity in the kitchen--and it probably doesn't hurt that two fitness centers (Wellbridge Athletic Club and Red Fitness Lounge) are located steps away. There will be a refrigerated case within the cafe to display the meals and a dedicated, trained staffer to answer questions and facilitate orders. Meals will be available seven days a week.
Stratton believes that if a five day a week regimen is followed, a less stringent day or two is permissible, so he anticipates Sunday will be the biggest sales day, the day when "people come off of their 'cheat nights' and get back on the program."
If the concept takes hold, he plans additional units of 600-900 SF in Creve Coeur, Town and Country, and Chesterfield. In addition and not surprisingly, Stratton is rebranding his two cafes to be a bit healthier as well. Journey complete...
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