Inspired by a Market Void and Passion for Family Gathering, Warren Dietel Shares How the Launch of His Newest Brand Came to Life
ORLANDO, Fla.- "Honey, what's for dinner tonight?" There it is. The inevitable question that is asked in almost every household, every single day. We know it's coming, yet sometimes planning ahead and preparing properly in advance as we approach each week, to confidently answer this one question, can be extremely daunting.
Maybe if we close our eyes and cover our ears we won't have to deal with it?
If only that toddler mentality truly worked. Face it, if this is a question you are tasked with answering, then it's time to embrace the fact that you are #adulting, and meal planning every week is pretty much going to be a buzzkill for your Sunday Funday's moving forward.
However, it doesn't have to... because now we have options.
Whether you are a working parent, preparing for out-of-town guests, or looking ahead to hosting a dinner party, there have never been more solutions to help consumers serve their family and friends with meals that don't require laboring in the kitchen all day. Sure, a delicious home-cooked meal, that is made from scratch and seasoned with love is hard to beat, however taking on that task in today's bustling world is not as realistic as it used to be.
National meal delivery services were just beginning to really gain traction just prior to the 2020 pandemic happening, and are now paving the way in the food and beverage industry as its own dining category. As restaurants closed and people had nowhere to go while quarantined, the idea of being able to enjoy fresh, locally sourced, and professionally made meals, that could be scheduled and delivered to your door began to seem like a viable business concept.
It didn't take long for Warren Dietel, owner of highly successful Puff 'n Stuff Catering and Events, to realize he had an opportunity in front of him to expand his brand portfolio, while also helping others. By reimagining how to use the resources, staff, and assets that he already managed, Warren hit a Brand Breakthru with the development and launch of his newest company, called Heirloom.
Inspired by a market void, and with an emphasis on cultivating family gatherings, Warren has been able to create a local concept that's meeting demand, while also keeping his staff busy and working.
Read on for our interview with Warren Dietel, to learn more about how Heirloom by Puff 'n Stuff Catering was born, and his own personal brand story.
H&F: Please describe your career/education prior to starting your business.
Warren: I began my career with Puff ’n Stuff Catering in 1985 when it was owned by my parents Susie & Glenn. Back then, I worked in the kitchen, drove the trucks,
and served the clients. I left the company in 1994 on a mission to broaden my experience and hone my business savvy. And I did so through successful tenures at Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, The Disney Institute, and Scott Kay Platinum. But in 2002, I came back. And never looked back. In February 2003, I purchased the company from my parents, and the rest, as they say, is history.
H&F: Do you have any specific education, training, or credentials that prepared you for this business?
Warren: I am a member of several industry associations including ICA, NACE, MPI, FRLA, and ILEA, and served as a Director for the International Caterers Association. Most importantly I was raised in this industry, it’s in my DNA.
H&F: Tell us about how you have redefined yourself and your already established brand.
Warren: We decided to create a new branch of the company that leverages our existing culinary and operations systems with a modern e-commerce solution. While Puff ‘n Stuff is considered a luxury event service, we are marketing Heirloom to families and individuals seeking high-quality heat-and-serve meal solutions while at home. Now, our customers don’t need to host a party to experience our services and cuisine. Our ultimate goal is to become the first choice provider of prepared foods to homes and businesses throughout Central and West Florida. Home meals have always been part of our DNA but weren’t a big focus as events always took center stage. The foundation was in place, we simply needed to take a step back and develop a plan to efficiently prepare and deliver direct to our customer’s homes at an affordable price.
This has evolved into its own brand, Heirloom by Puff ’n Stuff. Heirloom launched in April 2021 with everything available to order right through our new web app. Each week a more interactive meal will also be offered, featuring items like assemble-it-yourself ramen, fajita kits, etc. Our team is excited to see Heirloom grow into a significant part of our business that helps our customers buy back precious hours of their day by reducing the need to shop, prep, cook, and clean up.
H&F: When/how did you get that light bulb moment to REDEFINE your brand?
Warren: When 2020 forced the world to slow down, we saw a renewed interest in family time. We wondered, what if we crafted fresh meals for busy families to provide the convenience of take-out or delivery and the wholesomeness of making it yourself? We created Heirloom to fill that need.
H&F: Tell us something unique about your brand, what makes you different?
Warren: We knew our meal delivery options would compete with nationwide meal kit services, prepared grocery store meals, and local delivery, so we focused on differentiating ourselves with truly fresh meals delivered weekly to our customer’s homes. These heat and serve fresh meals are prepared in our Orlando and
Tampa kitchens are then delivered to their homes locally, void of delivery fees or minimums. We feature seasonal menus that rotate weekly in family sizes and individual portioning
H&F: Where do you find inspiration for your work?
Warren: I’ve always been inspired by my parents, after moving to the United States from Trinidad they quickly grew their catering business but always found time to gather at the table for dinner. This instilled in me the importance of family. I carry those values on with my own family which is part of the reason I decided to create Heirloom so that we could help families come together each night.
H&F: Do you have any partners behind the scenes, or do you manage everything yourself?
Warren: My wife, Melissa, has been a big part of the development of this new brand. We also have a Project Manager assigned to run the day-to-day tasks and of course our Culinary and Operations teams play a big role in making sure that each meal goes out perfectly.
H&F: What has been the hardest part about redefining this business?
Warren: With a larger company like ours, we had to rethink our team structures in order to adjust headcount. When you have a team of people you love but you can’t afford to keep every single one on board full-time, you have to make tough decisions.
"Now, our customers don’t need to host a party to experience our services and cuisine." -Warren
H&F: How has the pandemic impacted your business? What changes have you had to make?
Warren: Unfortunately like many others, we saw an immediate 80-90% reduction in business. On an individual level, people have been making more use of their homes. In the beginning, it might have looked like ordering in to support local businesses or splurging on the special dining experiences they enjoyed pre-pandemic. But motivations have shifted, especially as the school year resumed. We’ve seen customers looking to battle cooking fatigue and the monotony of being at home each night to families wanting the ease and convenience of meals after a day of work and home-schooling. These are immediate opportunities.
On a social level, gatherings otherwise hosted in public spaces were canceled, postponed, or moved into the home and made more intimate. As caterers for larger events, this is an immediate hurdle that affects how we estimate quantity and scale, but also how we approach these events from a creative perspective. We needed to rethink what we do in order to complement intimate spaces and restrictions on gatherings—and be thoughtful about it. So far, we’ve experimented with entertainment and found some fun, mini-holidays to celebrate. We’ve hosted dinners with magic shows and also created kits for clients to celebrate National Bourbon Day at home with a special Old Fashioned recipe. We also watched how corporate clients evolved their events. Work-from-home mandates forced companies to find new ways to nurture culture and care for teams. Without an office to deliver to, one client hosted an online “event.” We delivered ready-made meals to 130 households to groups of anywhere from 2-15 people that they virtually shared. It was fun, low-risk, and engaging in a time when remote work was taking a toll.
H&F: What is your long-term vision for your brand?
Warren: Our initial focus with the Heirloom off-shoot brand is to focus on perfecting the home meal delivery program. Soon, we plan to launch a workplace version delivering hot meals, salads, sandwiches, and snacks to offices & schools throughout Central Florida. We also plan for an on-demand service featuring the same meals through the likes of DoorDash, Uber Eats, etc.
H&F: What encouraging advice would you offer someone unsure about starting their own venture, or going through a re-brand of their existing business?
Warren: Be very clear about who you are as a company, and go after the opportunities that will be sustainable for you operationally and leverage what makes you unique and successful.
H&F: Anything else you want to share?
Warren: We’ve also scaled our side business, Chef’s Commissary, which provides a culinary partnership for restaurant chefs dealing with resource shortages such as labor and ingredients. It’s been a natural avenue for us to grow as more restaurants outsource aspects to meet demands with fewer hands on the line. Chef’s Commissary is utilized by many local hotels, country clubs, and theme parks.
H&F: How can we see more of your work?