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By Mike Hazlip—
Drivers traveling along Greenback Lane near San Juan Avenue likely have seen building signage appear for the online meal service MealPro, which opened its new corporate headquarters last year at 7433 Greenback Lane.
The business was founded by Andy Sartori when he found other internet-based meal plans did not allow flexibility in meal choice. Sartori told The Sentinel that he started MealPro when he worked in the technology sector in Silicon Valley.
On Saturday, The Sentinel toured the facility for an inside look at how the company delivers meals to customers around the country. The kitchen has four ovens that cook 500 to 600 pounds of chicken each week, and kitchen staff track incoming orders with an iPad and weigh each dish to ensure quality control. Pallets of dry goods await preparation in an adjacent room.
Mealpro has a crew of about 10 full time workers in operations, according to Sartori, and the company hires additional employees during busier times, bumping the payroll up to about 20 or 25 people.
“I really want to be able to give people a way to customize food,” he said. “If you just want food, any restaurant can give you food. We’re addressing, you have an elderly parent that’s low sodium diet, we’re addressing that need.”
The company’s website shows 30 different entrees, and customers can order 18 or 20 meals in each box. Meals are priced at about $10 each, and Sartori said customers typically receive their box the next day.
Sartori said the company goes above and beyond the usual requirements for a commercial kitchen, preparing gluten-free meals in the morning to avoid cross contamination, as gluten spores can remain in the air, according to the executive.
The company now has two nearly 5,000-square-foot facilities in the area. The Greenback Lane location is where the meals are prepared, cooked, and shipped. A second warehouse on Auburn Boulevard, just outside Citrus Heights, stores shipping supplies and spare parts.
Sartori was looking for a central location within the greater Sacramento region when he found the former Lucky Derby Casino building. He said Citrus Heights has a good mix of residential and commercial properties, and the building had what he was looking for.
“We had a business reason to move to the greater Sacramento area (relocating from Silicon Valley),” Sartori said in an email to The Sentinel Friday. Silicon Valley is home to international conglomerates with domestic and foreign income streams. MealPro is a national company. Our income stream is strictly domestic with customers in all 50 states. A regional market like Sacramento allows us to make better use of resources and ultimately create better long-term value to customers and investors.”
The business uses local suppliers as much as possible, and with MealPro cooking between 700 to 800 pounds of potatoes each week, that means a potential boost to growers in the San Juaquin Valley where Sartori says they get some of their produce.
The founder and CEO said he aims to keep the company as self-sufficient as possible. The warehouse stores oven parts that commonly need replacement such as fuses, and even a spare oven. There is also a delivery truck to make connections when the major suppliers are not able to meet the company’s schedule.
Sartori is focused on training employees and quality control, as well as efficiency as he works to grow the company.
“You really want to iron these things out while the company is small,” he said. “Otherwise, if you grow and you don’t have these dialed in, you’re amplifying mistakes.”
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