A zest for Zing: App at heart of take-and-make entrée business
Fargo - Jean Maaske knows the comforting power of food. When one of her three sons requested she send some home cooking to him in Joplin, Mo., she packaged up trays of lasagna, chicken enchiladas, stuffed shells and tater tot hotdish, with instru...
Fargo - Jean Maaske knows the comforting power of food.
When one of her three sons requested she send some home cooking to him in Joplin, Mo., she packaged up trays of lasagna, chicken enchiladas, stuffed shells and tater tot hotdish, with instructions written on the top.
She also knows the need for convenience.
A single parent for 19 years in Brainerd, Minn., she ate plenty of meals behind the wheel instead of at home.
Eight years ago, she realized the importance of healthful cooking after anemia landed her in the emergency room.
So when Maaske and her fiancé, Matt Mundem, moved to Fargo in November, they wanted to create a business that could meet that need – providing nutritious home-style food in a hurry.
“We want to be another option,” Maaske said. “So you have another choice beyond fast food.”
It wasn’t her family recipes for Hungarian mushroom soup and wild rice casserole or even a commercial kitchen that made her business concept work.
It was an app.
At the heart of Zing – Dinner in a Dash is a mobile phone application that lets customers order a meal while on the go. Menu items include pasta, soups, salads and wraps, in individual sizes or meals for two, four or six.
Maaske said her staff can package the food in 3 to 5 minutes. Customers receive an alert on their phones, then pick up their order, in oven-safe biodegradable packaging, from Zing’s storefront and prepare it at home.
Nothing is frozen, said Maaske, who’s known as “Mama Jean.” Depending on the dish, customers may need to boil noodles, sauté vegetables or heat up a sauce.
Maaske, who spoke recently at both Fargo’s 1 Million Cups networking event and the State of Technology Conference, notes that technology can isolate individuals. This app facilitates the camaraderie of a meal, improving family life through a basic necessity: food.
She said Zing’s app, developed by Myriad Mobile of Fargo and patent pending, is unique in the real-time experience it offers guests, providing updates on how their order is processing. She said a true ordering app is rare for restaurants.
“The food industry has been pretty stagnant for new ideas for a while,” she said.
The technology also translates into better efficiency for the business – resulting in little waste and appropriate inventory, she said.
Maaske’s brother, Joel Jorgenson, serves as CEO of the company. He sits on the board of Myriad Mobile, and saw the potential in her idea, knowing the technology would be key.
“What we came up with early – at their place and at their pace,” Jorgenson said.
He thinks about his own family, and how he wants to provide a wholesome meal for his daughter when she gets home from gymnastics at night and still has homework to do.
Cooking from scratch would take too much time, as would dining at a restaurant. Fast food isn’t healthy and carryout can get cold, he said.
With Zing, he said, he can order it, she can pick it up, and by the time her books are laid out, her meal is ready.
Zing differs from other iterations of pre-made food businesses in that the customers don’t need to invest time preparing meals, he said.
“This isn’t me going and spending three hours cooking meals that I freeze,” Jorgenson said, noting those meals then need to be thawed.
Plus, “This is food I really want,” Jorgenson said.
Mundem, executive chef, said all his food is from scratch. “I start from basic ingredients. I don’t use any prepared foods at all … very little salt,” he said.
Maaske and Mundem –also purchased software that allows them to analyze the nutritional content of the food. Each of the 39 menu item’s full nutritional content is listed at zingdinner.com.
Maaske sees a niche for Zing in college students. Their parents can order from anywhere in the world a meal for them to pick up in Fargo. The limited cooking required can help the student feel more comfortable in the kitchen.
That’s one reason why Zing is already eyeing a second location in north Fargo.
Another spot in West Fargo has been identified, with plans to open next year, Jorgenson said.
Maaske and Jorgenson both said they hope to franchise the business.
Meanwhile, Maaske is looking to also incorporate some on-site catering at the Zing storefront at 3241 42nd Ave. S., Fargo.
The former home of Thatzza Pizza, the site will serve as a private event venue, Maaske said, eventually seating 72 for business luncheons, rehearsal dinners or holiday parties.
She’s already pleasantly surprised how many people come in to the building to pick up the food instead of using the drive-thru.
“We want to be that neighborhood place where everyone feels comfortable to come in,” Maaske said.