We talked to David Brhel of Nutric Bistro about nutrient-rich diet during the COVID-19 pandemic.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
David Brhel: We are both okay with my girlfriend since we have developed healthy daily routines that help to get through busy work-week. We exercise at home using online classes or walk in the nearby forest on a daily basis, 30-60 minutes minimum. At the same time, I have been working from home even before the pandemic. Now I need to travel less for meetings, and I can save the extra time on even more exercise. That helps to fight all surrounding stress.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Nutric Bistro?
David Brhel: I gained a lot of experience with online projects with my first startup when we managed to get into a local Czech startup incubator. Although my initial aspirations were not so high, we even managed to fly to Silicon Valley and pitch in front of Dave McClure from 500 Startups and few others in the course of the incubation program. The business model of that project sucked, but it changed my way of thinking and aspirations forever.
After I closed down this project, I refocused on my biggest pain, chronic brain inflammation disease. My goal was to preserve my health by changing my diet from a typical modern western-style diet to a nutrient-rich diet. That helps to fight most of the contemporary civilization diseases, such as obesity, high blood pressure, acne, diabetes, chronic fatigue, autoimmune diseases, and many others. First, I cooked for myself all the time, but since I didn’t feel like spending half of my days cooking in a kitchen, we opened with a friend a healthy food restaurant. We started cooking paleo and low carb food.
We again gained a lot of experience, such as how not to hire a waitress, how not to waste ingredients, and how to promote new diets as healthy to the public. Since one healthy meal doesn’t change anything in terms of health for anyone, and one restaurant with a niche menu is difficult to scale, we completely changed how the business worked.
We outsourced the cooking as well as delivery, therefore achieving two goals. Firstly we increased the quality of both critical parts of service, and secondly, we created an entirely scalable business model. Both our current partners have more extended experience in their fields than we do, and they’re doing it well. In the future, we expect to have more partners like that around other major European cities.
We stopped selling individual meals and started to cook and deliver meal plans with up to 90 days subscriptions. We now offer 4 different meal plans based on diets clinically proven to improve various medical conditions.
How does Nutric Bistro innovate?
David Brhel: Gastronomy is luckily quite lacking behind the innovation of the food industry. Every year, the food industry is more and more inclined towards artificial and ultra-processed products, which are commonly less and less nutrient-dense. The “food” is more and more convenient, offering a wide range of no-hassle and ready-to-eat products. That opens a place for products such as peeled oranges and cut apples in a plastic box. Which we believe to be a dead-end.
In contrast with that, gastronomy is going exactly the other direction towards a healthier sort of food. Restaurants offer more often retro or traditional recipes, organic, or sugar-free, gluten-free meal options.
At NutricBistro, go further than that by engaging in clinical studies of our healthy food on people’s health. Our goal is to demonstrate that it is just nutritional rich food that may significantly improve health and increase people’s productivity in general.
While the main difficulty of a gastro operation is the automation of tasks, there’s a general refusal to innovation and technology in general. The kitchen staff wants to cook, and they hate to work with computers, even more with excel. During the new production management system testing stage, not a single login was recorded by the kitchen staff.
As a result of that, we concluded that all the order management and ingredient sourcing needs to be fully automated. Only all the reports and outputs from the system must be delivered to the kitchen staff by email as the kitchen staff is well used.
Our main tools are fully integrated into an online store, production management system, and API for delivery companies and retailers.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
David Brhel: On one hand, the majority of our customers these days work from home, so they have more time for cooking by themselves. Simultaneously, about 90 % of our distribution network – pickup points at gyms are closed because of government restrictions. Therefore we have seen about a 50 % drop in sales.
On the other hand, the current situation opened up new possibilities for partnerships with unexpected parties, who were also experiencing a drop in sales. With leading cooks, we are creating a product inspired by their 30 years of experience in gastronomy with our nutritional expertise.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
David Brhel: I assume people are afraid of making changes. They pay far too much attention to risks than to opportunities or eventually missed opportunities.
The more frequently one finds herself in a risky situation, the more comfortable and easier it is to complete such a change. My hobbies, climbing, and free-skiing, make coping with such calculated risks easier.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
David Brhel: Sometimes, it is very hard, but I decided my life is more important than money. It does not make sense to stress out about money if it eventually might kill you. There are worse things than losing money.
I fight with anxiety through plenty of physical activity and yoga. I would die without yoga. Even 15 minutes of practice saves the day.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
David Brhel: The pandemic brought around into the online food market new competitors, who were up until then only serving customers in their restaurants. But we always want to offer higher quality in terms of nutrition, not merely prevent customers from dying hungry.
Your final thoughts?
David Brhel: Whenever my friends complain about the situation’s difficulty, I remind them of what our grandparents went through during World War II or any other war. This isn’t just anything like that. As the British comedians, Monty Pythons say, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.”
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