Laura Wooton was at a crossroad. She was a project coordinator in marketing at Capital One and wanted to stay home with her young son. So she brainstormed about another kind of work she could do to keep her hours flexible.
Before Capital One, she’d worked with Alliant Foodservice, a big distributor of food, equipment and supplies. And it didn’t take her long to realize that the food industry might be the area to focus on.
While searching the Internet, she came across Dine In 2Nite, a franchised meal-delivery service. Kelli Smith was the owner in Richmond, and Wooton contacted her to see if it might be a good fit.
“I’d worked in lots of restaurants in Virginia Beach [when I was young],” Wooton says. “I was very comfortable in the food industry and thought, ‘Why run something you don’t know?’” And in 2014, she and Smith became partners.
A year earlier, Smith had been searching for a way to have more control over her time — she, too, wanted to work for herself. “I found Dine In 2Nite and thought, ‘This is you.’”
It’s a subscription service: Smith and Wooton send out menus to folks who’ve signed up for their mailing list. Diners can choose two meals or have dinner delivered as often as five nights a week. “We’re very flexible with our customers,” Smith says. “Some order exactly the same way and some change days every week.”
My first question was about the cost of an individual meal — a surprising $10. “The beauty of it is we get the orders ahead of time,” Wooton says. Diners can look at a menu for the month and order from there. The two can then shop accordingly and their chef, David Magner, has far less waste than a restaurant might have.
The number of customers varies from about 75 to 100, and Wooton says winter is the busiest season. “We delivered through the snow [last year],” she says, laughing. “It was challenging.”
Why not cancel dinner delivery on nights like those? “We have a lot of customers who depend on us,” Smith says. Several of Dine In 2Nite’s subscribers are elderly or disabled.
“You really get attached to your customers. It’s not just a food-delivery business,” she says. “The need is only going to get larger as people want to age in place.” richmond.dinein2nite.com.CORRRECTION: In the original version of this article, Laura Wooton's name was mispelled. We regret the error.