Strollers and Stilettos® interviewed Melanie Mityas, co-founder of Madison & Rayne, as our featured business for the month of February. We are excited to announce that friends of Strollers & Stilettos receive $35 off their first order with Madison & Rayne. Enter code SS35 in the promotion code box on the menu page!
S&S: Tell us about the concept of Madison & Rayne and how you got started.
Madison & Rayne is a local Chicago-based dinner kit service. We wash, chop, measure and deliver dinner ingredients to our customers, along with a recipe card with easy-to-follow instructions. So you can cook a fresh and healthy dinner in about 20 minutes.
My business partner / the chef of our operation is Josh Jones, former chef de cuisine at the now closed Spring Restaurant in Bucktown. Josh and I used to discuss how, as working moms, my friends and I were finding it difficult to prepare a home-cooked dinner every night. How could a chef help us? That was the beginning of Madison & Rayne.
S&S: Is there a meaning behind the name Madison & Rayne?
Madison and Rayne are the middle names of my two daughters – now aged 9 and 7.
Making fresh and healthy dinners for my family was the inspiration for the concept so we thought it was fitting to use the girls’ names as the foundation for our brand.
S&S: What is most rewarding about being part of this business?
Every week we hear from our customers – either new customers or long-time customers who tell us how we have helped them. “You have changed my life”, “You have made dinnertime so much less stressful”, “My kids loved dinner last night”, “I am so much more comfortable in the kitchen now and have been cooking more often on my own”.
S&S: What were some of the challenges and successes you faced when starting in this industry?
When we first started, the dinner kit industry was just starting. It was challenging to explain the concept to people and how our service could help them. Plus as a small food business in Chicago, it was difficult to get noticed since there are so many new food concepts and restaurants popping up all of the time.
Our success was with the food – we had so many compliments on the quality and taste of our food. In our first year, Chicago Magazine named us “most delicious” in a taste test across a number of dinner kit services. And Penny Pollack, Dining Editor/food guru at Chicago Magazine, ordered her Thanksgiving dinner from us. So we knew we had a great product!
S&S: How do you market and promote Madison & Rayne?
Referral is our most powerful marketing tool – we have been fortunate that many of our customers have told their friends and colleagues about us. We also periodically include free meals with customer orders that they can give to a friend or neighbor to try, and give referral discounts.
We also participate with booths where we sample our food at culinary events around the city including Green City Market’s annual Chef BBQ, Chicago Gourmet at Millennium Park, Dose Market. Social media, online advertising, and school donation drives and auctions are also part of our marketing activity.
S&S: What makes Madison & Rayne different than other food delivery services?
There are a number of other food delivery services – most of them deliver across the country; we deliver only within the city of Chicago and suburbs.
- we do more of the prep work! we chop the ingredients (most services will send you a whole vegetable that you have to chop), and we also prepare sauces and marinades for you
- we recycle our packaging! our delivery team will pick up your used tote bag, ingredient containers and cold packs and take them back to our kitchen where we sanitize and reuse
- we are local! we pack your bag and deliver the same day; we also source some of our ingredients from local farms in Illinois and Indiana; with the national companies your food has to travel across the country on a truck or sit in a warehouse
- we are allergy-friendly: just tell us your allergies and food restrictions or preferences, and we will modify or replace ingredients for you
S&S: Do you offer delivery daily or only specific days weekly? How many days prior to delivery do customers need to submit their online order?
Madison & Rayne delivers every Tuesday. You can choose an afternoon or evening delivery time. We pack the meals in insulated tote bags with cold packs so you do not have to be home to receive the delivery – we can leave it on your front porch or with your doorman. The meals stay fresh in your refrigerator for 4-5 days.
Our menu changes every week. The new menu is posted on Sunday morning and you can order throughout the week until Saturday at midnight for delivery the following Tuesday.
S&S: What are the various dietary restrictions you offer in the foods prepared (e.g., gluten free, vegan, gluten-free, etc.)?
Our menu includes meat and vegetarian options. Many of our dishes are naturally gluten-free and / or dairy-free; however we also can make almost any meal gluten-free or dairy-free.
We pack each meal individually so we can customize meals to accommodate any allergy or dietary restriction. No garlic, no onion, no nuts, no cilantro, no spicy food – it’s no problem for us!
S&S: What are some of your best selling food items?
Our customers tend to order fish and chicken most often. Some of our most popular dinner entrees are:
- cumin chicken with vegetable succotash that includes corn, edamame, sweet potato, black-eyed peas with spiced crème fraiche and queso fresco
- blackened tilapia with corn & cheddar fritters, green tomatoes, and brussels sprout & carrot slaw
- chicken breast with five onion & gruyere tart and an arugula salad
- salmon in a black bean glaze with sweet potato & scallion dumplings and bok choy
Our most popular lunch salad is a quinoa bowl (which Katie Lewis of Strollers & Stilettos loves!) It has quinoa, kale, carrots, sesame seeds, mushrooms, sweet chili & ginger vinaigrette.
S&S: How often do you come out with new menu items?
Chef Josh creates seasonally inspired menus every week using high-quality meats, vegetables and grains. Some dishes are repeats from the same season last year and some are new dishes we are introducing for the first time.
S&S: What’s the process like for creating new items?
We hold a recipe testing session once a month where Chef Josh prepares new dishes based on what is coming into season / or ingredients we are seeing at restaurants around the city. We also photograph the process and the final product.
S&S: What does the future of Madison & Rayne look like? Do you have plans to expand outside of the Chicagoland area?
We plan to expand in Chicago to offer a second delivery day during the week other than Tuesday. And we also have plans to set up kitchens in other cities in the US.