Finding Healthy, Delicious Prepared Food Is Now a Snap Decision

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As a socially responsible entrepreneur, Martin Berson sets the bar pretty high — Snap Kitchen, his healthy fast-casual dining chain, just opened its first locations in Philadelphia, complete with organic, locally sourced ingredients, BPA-free containers and a 21-day healthy eating program.
As a husband, though, he sets the bar even higher. The 46-year-old Texan — by way of South Africa — is always quick to acknowledge that the inspiration for Snap was driven in large part by his desire to help his wife, Robin, better manage her Type 1 diabetes. “She had always dosed herself,” Berson explained. “She had been doing it for years — before she was pregnant, if she was a little off, she could just dose with extra insulin.”
But that calculus became unsustainable when Robin became pregnant with the couple’s first child. As he watched his wife struggle with trying to get the necessary dietary information to eat responsibly during those critical months, he had what he called “one of those light bulb moments. The ability for her to really tell what the carbohydrate content was, what the nutritional information” — in any kind of detail for virtually any type of prepared meal — “really didn’t exist.”
For Berson, that recognition, combined with his belief that portion sizes had gotten out of control and that there was a need for healthy prepared foods that tasted great, led to the business plan for Snap.
Luckily for Berson, in addition to what turned out to be a bulletproof idea that has led to 37 locations (and counting) in Texas, Chicago and now Philadelphia — the company’s first East Coast location — he knew a guy.
Specifically, he knew Brad Radoff, a fellow Texan and the younger brother of one of Berson’s youth group friends. Radoff, a Penn graduate and hedge fund professional, helped come up with the financing that ultimately led the company to Philadelphia, a city with which Berson already had more than a passing familiarity.
“I spent a fair amount of time in Phila-delphia,” he said. “I dated a girl who had gone to Penn, I had a lot of friends in the area, and I was familiar with the city from the four years I spent working for Procter and Gamble in Baltimore. And my brother had also gone to Hahnemann Medical School.”
As a result, he said, it was an easy call to choose Philadelphia over other Northeastern cities in consideration, including Baltimore and New York City. “We loved the idea of New York,” he opined, “but the occupancy rates were off the charts. You need to be big enough to make a splash there, and we’re tiny.”
This year alone, in addition to the two locations that opened earlier this month — one on the 200 block of Market Street in Old City, the other on the 1900 block of Callowhill Street, right next to Buena Onda — there will be Snap Kitchens in Rittenhouse Square, Washington Square West, Malvern, Villanova and Cherry Hill. All seven locations — and any future spots — will be serviced by the company’s central commissary, an 8,500-square foot behemoth located in Kensington. The commissary will provide everything from breakfast goodies like chili eggs (a nod to Snap’s Texas roots) and gluten-free almond butter-maple pancakes to lunch picks like Thai lentil salad to more substantial dinner options like Berson’s personal favorite, the bison hash.
“My thought was to take my passion for food and combine that with the nutritional side” — listed in the top echelon of Snap’s flowchart is the company’s chief dietitian, Andrea Hinsdale, just below the company’s CEO, Dave Kirchoff, who left the CEO spot at Weight Watchers to come on board — “and marry those two things together in a super-sexy environment,” Berson said.
The well-lighted, streamlined space offers some seating and microwave ovens for those who want to eat there, is inviting and easy to navigate — the surfeit of edible options, priced between $5 to $15, are classified by size, day part, dietary focus (vegan, paleo, gluten-free) and color-coded protein type.
It is also a locus for those looking to try a more low-impact approach to weight and health maintenance. In addition to the easily readable calorie counts, ingredient lists and nutritional information, each location offers Snap’s “21-Day Commit,” a dietitian-approved and supervised meal plan offered at no charge beyond the purchase of food. Berson said that the program has become so popular since the first location opened and offered it in 2010 that there is no need to even publicize it. “My personal opinion is that north of 50 percent of our customers have done at least a portion of the program,” he enthused, before his voice caught while recounting stories of people who have told him how the program helped them gain control of their weight and health again.
This commitment to tikkun olam comes naturally to Berson, who grew up in an Orthodox enclave in South Africa before his family immigrated to the United States. He became a Bar Mitzvah in San Diego before his family settled in Houston, where he eventually became a member of the Conservative Beth Jeshurun, one of the largest congregations in the country (he and his family now belong to a Conservative synagogue in Austin, where they live and where Snap is headquartered). In addition to serving as a board member for the Jewish Community Association of Austin’s Momentum Committee and other committees and events in the city’s Jewish community, he is looking forward to engaging Philadelphia Snap Kitchens in giving back.
“There is so much more we haven’t done,” he exclaimed. “We want to establish strong ties within each community.”
Contact: [email protected]; 215-832-0797

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