In just five years, Meal Prep Ottawa has grown from a small service with 1 employee, to a large-scale operation with just under 20 team members, and a client base across the Capital Region.
The idea is simple; Meal Prep Ottawa (MPO) provides fresh, quality meals, delivered to your door, each week (no cook or preparation needed). And unlike all other meal delivery services that have become popular over the last few years, MPO is locally owned and operated, the only local service of its kind in Ottawa.
The company has seen rapid growth in its 5 years of operation, something that founder and owner Denis Analytis would have never imagined in 2018. Denis grew up in Montreal in a Greek family, and his father owned multiple restaurants in the city. He was surrounded by food growing up, and the food industry, and has been ever since. “My father was a heavy influence on my early decisions in life.” He recalls.
In his 20s, Denis moved to Ottawa where he began a culinary career.
His longest time away from the industry came in 2018. Denis was working as a fulltime Chef, but took time off work to recover from illness at home. It was during this time that commercials for meal prep and meal delivery services, having just arrived in Ottawa, caught his eye. And though Denis had never really thought of starting a business, he was intrigued. “It struck me as something new,” He remembers. “I didn’t have any aspirations to own a business, but something clicked.”
There was no such meal service for fully-cooked food in Ottawa, and in the months that followed, Denis built an ecommerce platform for Meal Prep Ottawa while he was recovering at home. “I created a job for myself, and I found myself getting excited and inspired.” Denis found himself working 8-hour days setting up the business. Despite the work put in to set up the company, his first order took him by complete surprise, something he laughs about today. “Two days after the website was live, I get an order for 10 keto meals. I was still in my healing process, and I had nothing prepared. I quickly did a menu, got labels and containers, and I put my heart and soul into
those 10 meals.”
His first customer was thrilled, and not only came back for more, but spread the word. In just two weeks, Denis’ business was on a fast track for growth, going from 1 customer to 100, all by word of mouth. As the business grew, and Denis’ recovery came to an end, and he had to choose between returning to work or turningnewfoundfound side job into the real thing.
“So I quit, and went to chase my dream.” Since the company’s humble beginnings in Denis’ home kitchen, it has seen nothing but growth for 4 years. After moving to its first location, a small commercial space in Carlington, MPO outgrew the location in 2 years, and upsized to their current spot in Nepean, with a team of 20 employees.
Today, Meal Prep Ottawa is the city’s largest locally-owned delivery service, offering quality, flexibility, and of course, simplicity. They offer 5 different meal plans for weekly meal delivery, and larger options for family meals. All meals are prepared by in-house professional chefs. In May, the company sold just under 19,000 meals.
Why is it so popular? “I think the secret is that it works well for busy people,” Denis responds. “We have busy lives. It’s not a secret. We’re cooking less at home. It doesn’t have to mean that people are lazy, but they understand that their time is valuable. And that’s the big thing. Our service has a price point that makes sense Denis recommends the Clean Plan to anyone looking to try out MPO. “It’s our most popular plan, and it’s for everyday eating. Our Clean & Mean Plan is not focused on any particular diet like Keto or Vegan, but instead excludes generally unhealthy elements like high sodium and MSG, and minimizes saturated fats.
The beauty of the business is that it really is for everyone. Denis’ customers range from busy professionals, to families, to people on personal fitness and health journeys. “A busy person, no matter what that means, is our ideal client.”
“If it’s your passion, then it won’t feel like work at all.”
Denis discovered the true range of his clients during pandemic shutdowns. “We saw a shift in clients. We have a large group of female business owners that are our customers. They own salons ( hair, makeup, beauticians) photographry studios, restaurants, and shops that were really affected by the first closures. Many reached out personally to introduce themselves. It gave me a chance to connect and to see who our clients were.”
In a full circle way, Denis’ favourite part about the work he does is helping people, especially those in recovery or grieving. “What really inspires us as a team is the feedback we get from clients who we have genuinely helped. We have customers who are going through a difficult time, and they reach out to us for help, and we’re able to provide something for them that they shouldn’t have to think about.
“Nutritionally, we have 100s of success stories from clients on their weight loss and clean eating journeys. We’ve been able to help them reach their goals in a 2–3-month period. This is what makes me happy. It’s great to be successful, but without this, none of it matters.”
Denis continues to be grateful for the success that he and his team have found. “Every day I wake up I thank God for putting me in this position. All I know is that 4 years ago, I had a different life… I thought I wouldn’t have a life. And here I am, in this exciting spot.”
His best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs? No plan B. If you already have a backup plan in your head, then you’re already thinking of failure. If you’re going to do it, prepare to sacrifice. Many people go into business and don’t understand what it really takes. They quit their job and start a business to stop working 35-40 hours a week, and suddenly they’re working a 70-hour work week minimum.”
“After 2 years of starting my business, I was working a minimum of 100 hours a week, every week. I can remember waking up and some days my eyes couldn’t even open.
The bottom of my eye was were fire from exhaustion. Those are the sacrifices that you will need to make. But, if it’s your passion, then it won’t feel like work at all.”
As for what’s next, MPO continues to grow in Ottawa as the leading local meal delivery service, and hopes to expand to other cities in less than a year. The company is also opening new satellite locations across Ottawa, offering MPO products as a quick grab and go option, a concept called MPO on the Go!
Photography by Sean Sisk