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    • Please join me in welcoming Dana Bloom, Co-founder of Proper Food, for a Cake Panel! This Panel is open for questions now.

      About Dana: Experienced business executive Dana Bloom—along with husband and Co-CEO Howard Bloom—created Proper Food to give other busy executives like themselves a solution to the daily dilemma of choosing quality vs convenience when grabbing a meal downtown. Proper Food, with locations in San Francisco and New York City, represents the couple’s take on fast-casual with a fresh grab-and-go concept that promotes a convenient avenue to higher quality food.

      Welcome Dana!

    • Dana, thank you so much for joining us for this Cake Panel interview! So you have a very
      accomplished background in business: what inspired you and your cofounder Howard to take the plunge into starting Proper Food?

    • We’d always been very entrepreneurial, and we’d always had passion around food. We were both working corporate jobs and found ourselves at lunch either waiting a half-hour for salad, or grabbing something unhealthy. And so, we basically created what we wished existed.

    • Why do you think Proper Food's Philosophy of "Simple, Modern Fare" made fresh and with integrity every morning has resonated?

    • Proper Food is the way I personally want to eat every day. It’s not trendy or a fad. It’s healthy enough, but not diet food. People today are more time constrained than ever, yet also more
      health-conscious and food-savvy than ever. They don’t want to trade-off quality for convenience. So, this is the type of food people are seeking, and our variety means they can truly eat and enjoy it every day.

    • We got really lucky: Juan replied to our job ad right at the beginning. He’s an incredible chef. He had the background of having worked in a Michelin starred kitchen, as well as in fast casual, so
      he also brought that operations background. It’s been a great collaboration. I worked in jewelry before, and I learned a lot about how to work well with a creative as a business person. We give Juan a lot of space  for his creative process. We’ve supported him to go on an inspiration trip to Spain to immerse himself in those foods and flavors, and it’s because of experiences like this that our menu is so differentiated. Our guests can taste the difference in our food - it’s
      more inspired. We allow Juan to drive the menu, because he’s the Chef - he knows, and our customers will tell us, what works and what doesn’t. Juan has a really big heart and strong values. He’s played a major role beyond the menu in helping to shape our brand, our operations
      and our values. 

    • The Proper Food menu includes a solid balance of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options. How do you and Chef Munoz incorporate customer feedback into your menu design and planning?

    • We’re really thoughtful about who our customers are, and ensuring each seasonal menu, as it changes, it serves all of them. So we really think about those things. Chef Juan is very good about being aware of being aware of a dish not having allergens yet, so not putting nuts on top,
      but with another dish, we could use walnut bread as it already has those allergens. And in terms of customer feedback, we take all of it seriously! I see every bit of customer feedback we get. And we respond to all of it. Sometimes we take it literally what a customer is asking for, and sometimes we ask the underlying need of what they’re asking for, but we’re always very thoughtful about it.

    • What kind of impact has Proper Food had so far in terms of working with small farmers for sourcing? Has there been a particular ingredient that's had a surprising story?

    • We try to source locally when possible. We always source sustainably. One great story for us was the person who provides our produce in San Francisco started with us at the very beginning, when his business was really tiny, and his business has grown as we’ve grown, and it’s impacted his whole family, so that’s been great.

      We’re picky about everything we put in our stores: in New York, we work with North Fork potato chips, and we are literally calling the farm directly to order the chips! Another ingredient we use is Verlasso Salmon. They were the first ocean-raised Atlantic salmon to be rated an alternative by the Monterey Bay Seafood program. It’s the most sustainably-sourced fish. It’s very high quality, and we're proud to offer it.

    • Something that I think is really interesting about your business is that all of the packaging used by Proper Food is compostable or recyclable, with any leftover food scraps also composted. What do you think the future of food packaging sustainability will be?

    • This is a great question. It’s a very frequent topic of conversation with our exec team - we have an offsite next week, and this is a topic of conversation! The rise of takeaway food is increasing the amount of packaging waste, and we’re aware of that and we want to be part of the solution there. It’s more complex than people realize. There’s an entire world of suboptimal solutions: sometimes the things that seem like the best solutions aren’t. We’re reaching out to Recology in San Francisco to get input from them on what works best. We’re really focused on always looking for what are the best alternatives at the time. I’m optimistic that I see a lot of innovation happening in packaging. Right now there’s no perfect alternatives, but I think we’ll see in the next few years a lot of innovation there that gives us better alternatives.

    • Proper Food has donated more than a quarter of a million meals to those in need through local food banks, which is a pretty staggering figure. What kind of feedback have you received from local food bank partners, and where do you want to take the program next?

    • Our most rewarding feedback has been from recipient themselves. Some of our food goes to a women’s shelter or a veterans home, and we’ve gotten emails from the recipients directly saying that the food brightened their day, that they might be down on their luck, but that the food was a highlight for them. So that’s great to hear. We’re excited to expand our impact as we launch more stores. And as we’ve launched wholesale, we encourage our wholesale partners to participate in that program.

    • Yeah! The menu changes seasonally. Right now I’m loving our Harvest Salad, which has chicken, bacon, shallots, fromage blanc, and a dressing you could drink. It’s toasted caraway vinaigrette and it’s amazing. Our salmon teriyaki hot plate is a constant top seller. Our lemon-pepper seared ahi tuna with saffron-infused rice is another top seller. And we also have comfort food like PB&J, we make our own peanut butter from scratch, our own walnut bread, our jam from scratch, and that sells very well also.

    • Proper Food is growing and thriving in San Francisco and New York City. Where have you set your sights on next (if you can share that with us)?

    • Our current focus is definitely continuing to grow in SF and New York - we’ve just entered NYC this past October, and there’s so much opportunity here! My mentor always used to say “Global domination is on our agenda.” But right now we’re very focused on growing these two markets.

    • On a random note: you love to travel and have been to more than 50 countries! What are some locations you'd recommend to fellow travelers?

    • I was thinking about this last night! I’d have to say the most amazing travel experience I’ve had was climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, or building houses in Lesotho with Habitat for Humanity. Some other really magical places would be Namibia, which was incredible; Petra in Jordan:
      Cappadoccia in Turkey. And I also love New Zealand. I could go on and on.

    • At the end of the day, there are only 2 reasons why a business fails: one, you run out of cash, or two, you give up. So I think a lot of people don’t realize that even if their business is profitable, it can run out of cash, so it’s important for an entrepreneur to understand capital and their cash flow. And then beyond that, any mistake is solvable if you don’t give up. So the biggest difference between successful and not successful people is that those who had that failure
      moment didn’t give up and kept on going (which you can do, if you have cash)!