Meal-planning and subscription food service The Clean Eatery has purchased the recently closed The Main Cheese and plans to reopen soon with an updated menu and concept. At the same time, The Clean Eatery is moving its primary operations to three units at Market Place Shopping Center on Rodney Parham Rd. and planning several expansions of its health eating business. The whirlwind of news comes as Clean Eatery owner Ryan Merritt-McGehee works to keep his business growing on several fronts.
First, fans of The Main Cheese will be pleased to know that Merritt-McGehee plans on wasting very little time in reopening the restaurant on Highway 10. The name of the company will stay the same, as will much of the look and feel of the restaurant. However, Merritt-McGehee plans on updating the menu with an eye toward fresher, local ingredients and a healthier rundown of dishes. He has purchased eight rows of produce from North Pulaski Farms that will supply both The Main Cheese and The Clean Eatery. Merritt-McGehee is making a few organizational changes at The Main Cheese, and believes he can be open in early February.
“We’re going to zap some of the menu,” says Merritt-McGehee. “We’re talking about bringing in more fresh produce, making some more healthy fare. We want to throw a little bit of that Clean Eatery spin straight into that menu. We’re going to look at doing a couple of different appetizers, maybe add four more salads to the mix and cut down on some of the sandwiches.”
Merritt-McGehee says The Main Cheese will keep its lunch and dinner hours while also adding a regular Sunday brunch service. He has kept on several staff members from The Main Cheese’s most recent run, which ended on Friday. Merritt-McGehee says that will help him get the restaurant running again quickly. Still, he is hiring for both front- and back-of-house operations to fill out his team. Those wanting to apply can call The Main Cheese or use the form on the website.
In addition to re-opening his new restaurant, Merritt-McGehee is also moving his primary business to a new location. Currently located in the former Damgoode Pies space on Rodney Parham Road, Merritt-McGehee is relocating his meal prep service to Market Place Shopping Center, in between B-Side and Flavor of India. The move more than doubles the space The Clean Eatery has to work on creating its grab-and-go meals and menu planning. Merritt-McGehee hopes to complete the move before March.
“We had doubled our business when we moved to the Damgoode Pies spot,” says Merritt-McGehee. “And soon after we moved in, we doubled yet again. We’ve been bursting at the seams almost since we moved in. So we had to pull the trigger.”
The new space is 5,500 square feet and will allow The Clean Eatery to start some new features for its business. Up until now, clients have had to choose between a 15- and a 20-meal plan. Starting next month, The Clean Eatery will offer a 10-meal program that targets weekday lunch and dinner for customers.
“The biggest dropping-off point for our customers was they missed eating out or cooking,” says Merritt-McGehee. “That led to them being on for three weeks, then dropping off for two, then coming back on. So this meal plan allows them to keep cooking or keep going out and not have to worry about waste.”
The Clean Eatery is also boldly going into the nationwide meal shipping business. Merritt-McGehee and his team will pre-measure all meals and package it so that the client prepares the meal on his or her own. It will work similarly to Blue Apron and other subscription meal services. Merritt-McGehee is working on developing packing containers that keep part of the meal frozen while still allowing him to ship fresh produce. If all goes well, that service will be running in April.
Merritt-McGehee seems to understand that he is taking on a lot all at once. However, he says The Clean Eatery is well staffed and managed at the moment, allowing him to focus on these new ventures. He also has several automated processes to take some of the weight off from the ordering and fulfillment side. Still, he acknowledges the next few months will be a challenge.
“I question myself sometimes,” says Merritt-McGehee. “If it’s too much, too fast, then I’ll learn. But everything I’ve done has been, you know, let’s go, let’s hammer it out. I live at a very fast pace, and this is just natural to me.”