An on-demand delivery startup has started selling healthy fast-food out of a former McDonald’s

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Head Chef Scott Wiese whips up a batch of modified French toast in the Mealmade kitchen.
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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

Jeff Nobbs, founder and CEO of on-demand food delivery startup Mealmade, is working to upgrade fast-food out of the most ironic of places: an abandoned McDonald’s restaurant.

Founded in 2015 out of the on-demand mecca that is San Francisco, Mealmade caters to the customers whose specialized diets (think paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free, and nut-free) are ignored by most delivery apps, Nobbs says. Every dish is is made to order, cooked with healthy fats, and uses ingredients picked from farms within 200 miles, sometimes the day before.

The startup recently converted a former McDonald’s restaurant into its new headquarters. Business Insider had the chance to go behind the kitchen doors and try the food. Take a look.


Since Mealmade moved into McDonald’s, Nobbs says it’s not unusual for someone to stumble in looking for the Golden Arches, though the front-of-house is completely empty.

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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

A Big Mac is hardly what’s for dinner at Mealmade. The startup serves healthy meals cooked in 10 minutes or less. Every dish is gluten-free, dairy-free, and low-glycemic.

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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

Some ingredients, like proteins, are cooked halfway earlier in the day to speed up preparation during rush delivery times. But the dishes are never fully-prepared ahead of time or frozen.


Nobbs started paying attention to his diet as a teenager, when he was trying to “get big for the high school football team,” he says. But it was hard figuring out the ingredients.

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Jeff Nobbs is founder and CEO of on-demand food delivery startup Mealmade.
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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

“I always thought it was really weird that, [with] something like consumer electronics, you go on Amazon and you see big pictures, detailed specifications, and user reviews. Then you go to restaurants and decide what you’re going to put in your body, and there’s like eight words to describe it,” says Nobbs, who started his career running an e-commerce startup, Extrabux.


With Mealmade, he wants to marry fresh, local ingredients and nutritional transparency.

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Some of the company’s most loyal customers have autoimmune conditions or food allergies. Other more flexible eaters just want to dip a toe into healthy eating.

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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

The menu turns over about every week and a half. Nobbs and Head Chef Scott Wiese experiment with new takes on comforting classics, like pad thai and chicken parmesan.

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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

The startup prides itself on its creative substitutions in the kitchen.


A chicken chow mein is made with free-range chicken, celery, carrots, cabbage, a paleo chow mein sauce, and these white, spindly sweet potato noodles. It costs $17.

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Baked spaghetti squash forms the bed of a gluten-free spaghetti dish. Customers can order it topped with a grass-fed beef bolognese ($14) or a mushroom ragu ($12).

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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

Each week, the Mealmade team places calls to customers who leave feedback online. Those customers often plant the seeds of inspiration for future dishes.

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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

Walking around the kitchen, there are constant reminders of the restaurant’s past life as a McDonald’s. Deep fryers that once cooked french fries in vegetable oil now fry sweet potato fries in organic palm oil.

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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

A walk-in freezer that once housed frozen beef patties, french fries, buns, and desserts was converted into a refrigerator for storing fresh produce. The former labels remain.

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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

Nobbs hopes to transform the front-of-house, which still has McDonald’s tables and a 1990s aesthetic, into a dining area where customers can stop in for a quick bite.

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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

Scott Wiese, who previously worked as a personal chef for a family in Silicon Valley, joined the company about six months ago after first becoming a customer.

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Scott Wiese is head chef of on-demand food delivery startup Mealmade.
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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

On a recent morning, Wiese whipped up a batch of modified french toast using almond flour bread, pasture-raised eggs, and organic coconut milk. “We want it to look and feel like the original, but be made from stuff that more’s beneficial for your health,” Wiese says.

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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

He tossed the bread into a frying pan and an egg into another. Three strips of pre-cooked bacon were reheated in the oven. When the toast turned golden, it got a sprinkling of dehydrated coconut milk.

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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

The french toast was sweet and fluffy, but the bread was not soggy with batter.

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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

On Mealmade’s website, there are about a dozen entrees and sides to choose from, ranging from full-vegan to meat-lover’s dream.

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Mealmade screenshot

When you click on a menu item, you can see the ingredients and nutrition facts laid out plainly. Labels placed over the images say this dish is gluten-free and paleo-friendly.

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Mealmade screenshot

When I ordered two meaty entrees, a side, and a desser, the food arrived in less than an hour.

Mealmade uses UberRUSH, the startup’s enterprise solution, to leverage its massive driver network rather than hire independent contractors. It charges a delivery fee between $3 and $5.


The Carne Asada Taco Bowl ($15) was incredible. It featured grass-fed sirloin steak served over cauliflower rice with fried plantains, organic pickled peppers, and a side of guacamole.

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It was like a guilt-free burrito bowl from Chipotle (without the extra charge for guacamole). But at $15, the Carne Asada Taco Bowl cost twice as much as a similar item at Chipotle.


The Orange Chicken ($13) is a customer-favorite, says Nobbs. Mealmade uses free-range chicken and a breading made from tapioca starch and coconut flour to keep it lean.

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The batter overwhelmed the bite-sized chicken pieces, but I would eat paper if it were dunked in the housemade Citrus Sauce. Made with organic orange juice, coconus aminos, tapioca flour, honey, and other ingredients, it tasted sweet and tangy, like biting into a fresh kumquat.


I enjoyed the Fried Plantains ($5), but was hoping for a sweet cream sauce instead of the chipotle aioli served on the side. A lighter dessert offering would also be nice.

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While not every dish was a home run, the startup’s fresh takes on dietary staples proved that, at a cost, customers could upgrade the quality of their meals a couple of times a week.


Nobbs declined to say how many customers Mealmade serves a month, but says the startup has experienced 10% to 15% growth each month since its founding in 2015.

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The on-demand food delivery market is a crowded one. Mealmade will need to expand beyond its core customer base if it wants to succeed.

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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

Nobbs is hopeful that changing values around food sustainability will turn more people onto Mealmade. You don’t need to drop meat from your diet or buy only organic in order to have a big impact on the environment or your body, according to Nobbs.

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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

And eating from Mealmade has another perk, he says. “The food just tastes really good.”

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Melia Robinson/Business Insider