Like testing unique ingredients to create a special recipe, the formula for a successful business is complicated, and often the result of trial and error, hits and misses. For Mona Romero, manager of Lyfestyle Catering in Miami, the evolution from creating healthy meals for a few friends to running a bustling business dependent on proprietary software to maintain menus, inventory and much-needed equilibrium came down to keeping the same high standards, which include locally-sourced ingredients and personalized customer service.
“The business has always been mostly from word-of-mouth,” said Romero. “We put into [the software program] the littlest details, and that’s a great tool for us. We talk to our customers directly by cell or email. Some will email me at 3 a.m. with questions or special orders. I answer all of them, if I’m awake.”
From Paleo to low carb and gluten free diets, there is something for everyone at Lyfestylecatering.com, the business’s website, where weekly meal plans can be tailored and ordered according to palate or dietary requirements. With the South Beach Diet as its inspiration, the mainstay of the catering company is a two-phase plan that slowly introduces healthy carbs into the plan during the second week.
While “eat local” has become the mantra for foodies across the nation, sourcing fresh, local ingredients is key to making Romero’s specialized catering business sing. “You know when a vegetable is frozen,” she said. “We get fresh produce and meats twice a week.”
Lyfestyle Catering delivers to homes and offices from Homestead to as far north as Hallandale Beach. Most orders are placed online.
“You don’t have to go out and worry about how the meals are made,” Romero said. “We try to take out the complication of cooking. We care about what we make. Keeping the same standards separates us from the competition. It’s more about portion control and less about dieting. It’s a matter of balancing everything.”
According to Nutrition.gov, a database maintained by the USDA, healthy food choices are important for good health, and eating well means choosing a variety of nutrient-packed foods and staying within your calorie needs. People generally will lose weight as a byproduct of adhering to a healthy meal plan that is low in saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars and salt, say experts.
For Romero, whose meal plans were adopted by doctors and patients in a pilot program in the gastroenterology department at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, every detail is crucial to creating an effective diet, particularly since the health of her clients depends on it. People with diabetes, high cholesterol and even cancer issues can benefit from Romero’s dietary formulations.
While the low-carb, Paleo and alkaline plans are the most popular with customers, more restrictive plans like the 500-calorie diet require a doctor’s supervision. Meal plans also are tailored to religious needs, not just dietary.
There are no fryers at Lyfestyle Catering, only open stoves and grills. The menu changes weekly. Over 52 weeks, only a few items are repeated. The diversity of requests is what makes her job interesting, Romero says.
“It’s about being creative so people feel comfortable eating what they have to,” Romero said. “It’s fun and rewarding when people say your food is delicious and I’m losing weight. You don’t have to suffer to eat healthy.”