In the zone at ZoneManhattan

As WAG arrives at the ZoneManhattan facility in the Bronx, the staff is busy at work, finishing up the day’s meal service and preparing for a whole new menu for the next day. The service delivers three square meals and two snacks right to your door, with the chefs ensuring that each meal is crafted to suit an individual customer’s dietary needs and tastes.

“We’re a business created from a chef’s perspective,” says Steve Lindner, CEO of ZoneManhattan, who combined his experience in restaurants and as a private chef to create a new kind of food service — fresh, healthy, delicious meals, fully prepared and delivered right to your home.

“It really came about out of necessity,” Lindner, says about how he started the service after a restaurant venture with a partner was thwarted by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, amid a lawsuit that was taking up a good chunk of his time and money. “During that time, I started seeing an opportunity in designing meals — catering to people’s personal likes and dislikes.”

He remembers that time of unemployment well. He used to watch daytime television and see commercials for meal services meant to help people lose weight. “They were selling 1,200 calories worth of meals for the same price as our check average at our restaurant. So I did the math and realized there was an opportunity there. I didn’t like what they were doing. I felt that we could create a situation where we were designing customized meals for the individual. So we went ahead and implemented a plan to put up a website and push forward with it.”

It’s been 12 years since ZoneManhattan’s inception and an idea that started as just a way to earn some money in a time of difficulty became a much more popular and profitable service than Lindner could ever have anticipated. That’s because the food is as fresh as it gets. With Hunt’s Point Market just a block away, the food customers receive on a daily basis has been purchased the same day it’s cooked and delivered to be eaten.

“We design meals around people’s personal preference, but our general program is always low sodium, low cholesterol, high dietary fiber, lots of green vegetables and lean protein.”

Regardless of whether or not you’re trying to lose weight, the ZoneManhattan chefs work to create meals with as many organic, hormone-free products as possible. We were fortunate enough to sample some of the food, and it’s as good as it sounds.

From the outset, each customer’s personal food preferences and allergies are accounted for and logged for future reference.

“We base it on a consultation our customers have with a dietician. When somebody signs on, we have somebody contact them to set up their program and we set a fixed calorie range based on what they’re looking to use the program for. So if somebody wants to use it for weight loss, we set it up at a reduced calorie range that facilitates healthy weight loss.”

But ZoneManhattan also caters to other dietary needs and preferences, designing meals for vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians and people allergic to gluten or just opting to eat gluten free. All you need to say is that you don’t want or like a particular item and the cooking and packing staff will ensure that it doesn’t come to your door.

“Our goal is to become your mother,” says Lindner. “Your mother knew what you liked and didn’t like, so she would already have in mind what she was going to cook for you and cook a meal that she knew you could eat. That’s kind of the way we work.”

Curious about the cost? “The price pay is fixed. It’s based on the program you commit to. The longer the commitment, the lower the price.” For example, the 60-day special costs $34.95 per day, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re getting meat, fish or a vegan protein as part of your meal. It’s the same price for everybody.

For those who don’t like to cook or don’t have the time, ZoneManhattan is a perfect, healthy solution. And they deliver throughout Manhattan and Westchester County, even reaching into Long Island, southern Connecticut and parts of New Jersey.

“We don’t get complaints,” Lindner says. “That’s because we focus on getting it right.”

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