Whether or not you do, Ox Verte cares about your lunch — a whole lot. Starting this month, they also happen to have their sights set firmly on boosting your breakfast, too. Why? Ox’s wholesome catering is designed to re-engineer the way businesses approach their midday meal.
Finding the traditional plethora of sub-par sandwiches and snacks not only unfulfilling but wholly inadequate for sustaining busy workers, Jessie Gould decided to launch a company whose roots go deeper than just serving tasty food (though she also does that in spades). The vibrant food entrepreneur, whose background includes a stint as Organic Avenue’s former VP of Operations, Brand and Marketing, felt the time was ripe for food that nourished a sense of community as well as its eaters. She also believed good food should be accessible to all, especially those in a work environment with limited kitchen resources.
The idea for Ox Verte, an emblem of slow, steady but positive progress (sidenote: the “e” is a deliberate addition for the gallic-inclined grammatical purist) follows the recent elevation of the plate to a metaphysical platform. Just as the Slow Money and Slow Food movements are blazing a global trail to rebuild local food systems and raise awareness for edible bounty at a community level, so Gould and her team decided the realm of office catering needed a little updating.
With her keen business sense, Gould set about exploring market trends and realized the rise of the “fast casual” hospitality segment was indicative of wider interest in healthy, organic and sustainable eats. Fast casual restaurants, for example, witnessed ten percent growth in spending and eight percent growth in foot traffic in 2013 according to the NPD Group. So together with Abbie Gellman, a culinary nutritionist and chef, and Kristen Cahill, whose background includes creative direction at Publics and Radical Media, Gould launched her concept to “get more people to eat real food every day.”
With their focus on reinvigorating midday menus at the workplace, the talented trio founded Ox Verte in early 2015 as a new way for businesses to give back to employees. The company now delivers anywhere in Manhattan and already boasts over 80 regular clients. According to Gould, “The most exciting thing about our customers is how excited they are about us. We’ve hit on something offices want.”
Growing steadily quarter on quarter Ox’s customer retention rate is nearly 90 percent, a deft accomplishment for such a new business. With a motto to “do better business,” the Ox team are also keen to be a better business unto themselves. The company is hoping to receive B Corporation status this year. By voluntarily meeting higher standards of transparency, accountability and performance Certified B Corps aim to rethink how corporations function from the ground up. Ox Verte is now part of a growing community of over 1,000 Certified B Corps across 33 countries and 60 industries.
As for its food, the company’s menu is a mix of seasonal and, where possible, locally-sourced ingredients that speak to the best of the colors and flavors available each season. For example this winter, Verte lunches will include einkorn, an ancient grain with a subtle, slightly sweet flavor from Lakeview Organics thanks to a partnership with Union Square Greenmarket. Local, free-roaming, antibiotic- and steroid-free chicken for the season will be sourced from Goffle Road Poultry Farm in New Jersey through their partnership with Local Bushel.
The flavor combinations emanate from a partnership with head chef Chris Owen, whose previous accolades include Pearl & Ash, (Sandy ravaged) Governor and Brooklyn’s Clinton Hill darling The Finch. Owen now works from Ox’ Greenwich Village kitchen. There his days range from poaching bright boxes of beets in apple cider vinegar to concocting new salad dressings, like tangy-yet-sooty smoked shallot vinaigrette. Owen states, “we keep our food simple and seasonal. The simple menu allows us to highlight the natural flavors of the ingredients and maintain consistently and quality.”
The results are bold but balanced; Ox ensures all dietary preferences are taken into consideration in its menus. Before each new menu sees the light of an office day, rigorous group taste tests ensure the catering is crowd-pleasing. Menu items are tested individually and in combination to ensure flavors match well together. The creative funk is then left to your own design.
Tasty food is one thing but the critical factor for Ox, arguably more so than for farm-to-table restaurants for example, is their goal to strike a balance between showcasing the best of seasonal with a menu that stays affordable. Spending the same on food as a high-end restaurant, additional daily covers, cost of containers and delivery must be factored in to every plate. Those plates must remain as appealing to a business’ bottom-line as their tastiness. Unsurprisingly therefore, the company’s prices are in line with other “market plate” menus catering to the well-heeled worker. Ox matches the local diversity and price range of Dig Inn or Sweetgreen with the convenience of GrubHub and Seamless, instead catered to your office on a regular basis so admin, ordering and queueing are kept to a minimum (unless you go back for seconds).
Ox Verte’s combination of people- and planet-minded business as well as its tasty office lunches has ensured strong growth and success in its first year of operation. 2016 is set to continue that trend, while bringing additional challenges in the form of an expanded catering line of breakfasts and lunches. With firm groundwork, a stellar team in place and lofty aspirations to reinvent lunch for other major metropolises in the U.S., this catering company will be one to watch in the coming year. Astrological and zodiac predictions aside, this could be the year of the Ox.
Photos courtesy of Ox Verte.