Placemat: Home Chef Catering in Nashville, TN
Observant by nature and driven by a heart for health, Ryan Reisdorf founded Placemat in August of 2017, and he’s already served more than 4,000 people healthy, delicious meals in Nashville.
A nursing school dropout, Ryan’s passion lies in health. He was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at an early age, and he has had a vested interest in wellness ever since. When he sought out nursing school, his end-goal was a degree that would give him the clout to use his voice around health. When his first nursing school closed its doors, he moved on to school number two. Class after class, he listened and learned and kept coming back to a question of what we could do to prevent the diseases and conditions they discussed and why that was not more strongly emphasized. His teachers, it seemed, didn’t always welcome this inquisitiveness. Ryan continued to push back and became more and more stirred by the idea of prevention instead of treatment. The more he asked why, the more obvious it became: Ryan believes that nutrition is key to preventing many common ailments, and he set out to find a way to share this message.
Ryan learned that there are more than 5,400 Airbnbs in Nashville, all of which have beautiful, functional kitchens and most of which were not being used. It was a lightbulb moment. Ryan would bring healthy meals, cooked by Nashville chefs, straight into these kitchens to give visitors a unique taste of Music City.
He sat down with Music City chefs and restaurant owners. Over and over again, he heard that it was a logistical nightmare. It would never work. The chefs wouldn’t do it. So, he took matters – literally – into his own hands. He tells us, “I decided I would do it myself. I love to cook. I love to cook healthy foods. I love to cook for friends.” And, he did.
He messaged more than 150 people on Airbnb and shockingly received response after response. He quickly realized that in order to maintain their Airbnb ratings, the owners had to respond to him … a goldmine. He met with many and ultimately formed 10 relationships with Airbnb owners that would prove to be fruitful in booking dinner parties. Finally, he met with a property manager and his partner over coffee, and they booked his first dinner party at one of their own homes: Fourteen people around the table, Ryan and his roommates in the kitchen, and it went seamlessly. Before the night was over, they had booked another for the following night (and had served Hunter Hayes their famous gluten-free pizza). As Placemat has grown, they’ve started booking as many as four dinners a night, and therefore enlisting local Nashville chefs to help.
Since then, Ryan has served country music stars like Maren Morris, Florida Georgia Line and even Willie Nelson. But Ryan tells us, “The majority of our clientele aren’t celebrities. The service is the same. We’re accessible to everyone.”
While he started and still works within the Airbnb world, a staggering number of Ryan’s clients are locals. And we’d argue that a big reason for that is the way he’s impacting our community. Ryan says, “A big thing for me is treating the customer the right way and chefs that we hire the right way — paying them appropriately and treating them appropriately.” Since the inception of the company, he’s employed more than 400 people – from chefs to consultants — and he’s adamant about keeping it local. With a tight working relationship with local market The Turnip Truck, he continues to forge affiliations with even more small businesses in Nashville.
Ryan tells us, “It’s not about me. It’s about the brand and what we’re trying to do. It’s not about the experience of the chef. We hire people who are chefs. People who have empathy. We have a why — not a what. There’re a lot of imposters that have come behind. There are always private chefs [and] ticketed dinner events. I’m not worried about those because of why we got started.”
Instead of profiling and highlighting the chefs themselves, Ryan emphasizes the food on the menu. Healthy and accommodating, the menus can be modified to meet any dietary restrictions. Really, any dietary restriction. As part of his mission to be accessible, Ryan provides a valuable experience of around-the-table dining to all. “Family-style meals were part of my childhood. We’ve lost that aspect of sitting around the table, and I wanted that back. People don’t realize the magnitude of those occasions and how important it is to discuss real things — the good and the bad,” Ryan tells us.
So how does it work? All via the website. To host a dinner party with Placemat, book through their site, with a $50 deposit, and select your desired menu. Then, the team will reach out with confirmation. The chef arrives, prepares the meal (in less than 90 minutes!), serves it family-style and takes care of the dishes, allowing guests to enjoy conversation and community over healthy, delicious meals.
This last semester, Ryan dropped out of nursing school to pursue this dream full-time. Placemat continues to grow with the goal of expanding to eight new cities this year. A true sense of purpose and passion is incredibly evident in the way that Ryan runs Placemat. The success he has found in emphasizing his guests’ health and experience continues to grow by the day.
To learn more or to book your next dinner party, visit Placemat online here!
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