Chicago’s ingrained: From Passion Project to Community Staple
Ingrained (styled “ingrained”) is a self-described “playful snack apothecary” that makes healthy vegan and gluten-free treats in Chicago’s River North neighborhood. Eye-popping photos of chocolate bars and truffles certainly don’t look like your usual health-food store, but that’s exactly what makes Andrew and Sydney Verwilst’s concept so popular.
“Great taste comes naturally with just really using high-quality natural (i.e., real food) ingredients,” says Andrew of the husband-and-wife team. For ingrained, they source organic ingredients and superfoods to incorporate functionality into tasty treats. This includes their highly-requested take on a nostalgic candy bar with adaptogenic-filled cashew creme, cacao, and chocolate almond butter filling – to name a few ingredients!
In just over a year on ChowNow, ingrained has served over 20,000 orders to thousands of diners. In 2020, they were among the top-performing Chicago restaurants on the ChowNow Marketplace, which they use alongside their ChowNow Direct subscription.
This passion project that began in their apartment has made over $760,000 from online ChowNow sales—and they’re just getting started.
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Choosing The Right Online Ordering Partner For Growth
With an Instagram audience of 13.5k followers, ingrained knew that capturing and connecting with their online community would be essential to their success. However, as a lean team that prioritized sourcing the best ingredients over everything else, ingrained’s online ordering needed to be cost-effective, streamlined, and simple. While they maintain listings on several marketplace platforms, ChowNow’s commission-free ordering was the perfect fit for scaling their business. After outgrowing their apartment operations and opening a brick-and-mortar storefront, they launched on ChowNow in June 2020.
Hands-on flexibility and control over their online menu was a big draw for them, too. “We’re creative and always making up new offerings,” Andrew explained. He and Sydney constantly experiment with new variations on their raw bars and baked goods, but are unafraid to veer into tomato soup and sourdough territory if the mood (or the weather) calls for it. Andrew says, “We sometimes add ten items a day and remove ten items a day from the menu. We need to be able to move quickly. ChowNow has been the best platform for us technologically.”
Making The Most Of Every Order
With ChowNow, ingrained can also maximize their online sales, which make up 80% of their overall revenue. Compared to the other platforms they use, ChowNow’s price point and subscription are the most advantageous for ingrained, so they direct traffic there as much as possible. How? “We list the lowest prices for the customer on ChowNow, so they’re incentivized to order through ChowNow,” Andrew says. They also regularly remind their Instagram audience to “check ChowNow for the latest menu updates!” Now, he says, the majority of their online sales are processed through ChowNow, allowing them to keep more of what they make.
Chicago is one of the cities that enacted a temporary measure during the pandemic to cap the commissions that online ordering companies could charge restaurants. From November 2020 through October 2021, Windy City restaurants “only” paid 15% on delivery orders — about $3.75 on an average ticket of $25.
In contrast, ChowNow doesn’t charge commissions for any delivery orders. As a result, in their first 18 months on the platform, ingrained saved over $50,000 in unnecessary fees.
Playing The Long Game For Success
ingrained offers pickup and integrated flat-fee delivery through ChowNow, and customers can place their orders straight from their website, the ChowNow Marketplace, Instagram, and even from their business profiles on search hubs like Google, Yelp, and the ChowNow Marketplace. With convenient ordering options offered everywhere that their diners are, ingrained sees sustained rates of 70-80% returning customers month over month.
As their business continues to thrive, ingrained does everything they can to make sure their community does, too. During December, they leveraged their online menu as a donation drive, adding a menu category for diners to pay for a donation to a nearby children’s hospital.
Through healthy small-batch goodies, ingrained supports their community with from-the-heart sustainability. By partnering with ChowNow, they were able to enhance this mission by leveraging new digital tools that reduced costs and captured more sales across their online footprint. In an Instagram post, ingrained affirms, “This is how we believe we will change the world. Not all at once, but by doing small things in big ways—never cutting corners and playing the long game.” We agree!