Middlesbrough café owner Lili Piper’s healthy food revolution is gathering pace.
She only opened The Protein Café at the Dundas Indoor Market last summer but it has already been named as one of the best new hospitality businesses in the Tees Valley.
Teesside TikTok influencer Jack Bean, who has millions of followers, is a huge fan and customer, whilst Boro boxers – including professional Zara Johnson – have recognised the benefits of the café’s healthy menu.
The relationship with Zara has become so strong that The Protein Café has become one of her sponsors. The 27-year-old, who also plays football for Stockton Town FC ladies’ team, makes her long-awaited professional debut later this month.
But it is not only protein-hungry boxers and bodybuilders who are enjoying Lili’s nutritionally balanced meals.
“A lot of people said to me that people who live here won’t be interested, but you’d be surprised at the number of them who actually want to eat healthily. They just haven’t had the choice,” she said.
Lili is now making that even easier by launching a delivery service of prepared meals to customers who might not cook or live on takeaways.
There are four options – from 1,200 to 2,600 calories – depending on whether you want to just eat healthily or eat healthily and at the same time build muscle.
Each customer receives five breakfasts, lunches and dinners which are all freshly prepared at the café on Sundays. Meals for Monday to Wednesday are delivered later that day. Thursday’s and Friday’s arrive on Wednesday to ensure maximum freshness.
Lili said customers of companies who only deliver at the start of the week often end up throwing away food.
“People are stuck in a rut eating the same thing week in week out. There’s something missing here. There’s got to be a better way to provide people with variety and change,” added the 32-year-old who with her team is already preparing hundreds of meals every week.
“With us there’s no waiting around. You can go to your fridge and get something that’s good for your body and mind which – in my opinion – is for a very decent cost.”
The average price of each meal is under £3 and customers who sign up for four weeks receive a £20 discount. “Everybody’s aware of the high cost of living but this means you’re spared the cost of shopping – as well as the expense of getting there. For busy people, who haven’t got the time or inclination to cook, it means they’ll be able to eat a healthy lunch at work and then something tasty and good for them when they get home.”
Menus change every week and the variety of food on offer includes blueberry breakfast muffins or bagels for breakfast, Chinese chicken rice pots, barbeque chicken with sweet potatoes and broccoli, Chicken quesadillas and lasagne and greens. Each meal is accompanied by information on the number of calories, amount of fat, carbohydrates and proteins.
As well as the new delivery service, Lili is about to launch a range of supplements and also has exciting plans for her business at the Dundas Indoor Market. There, as one of the heavier users of energy, she benefits from a fixed rate which covers all of her costs: the rent of her unit, access to fibre broadband as well as the cost of gas and electricity.
The owner of the market has pledged to continue to offer this all-inclusive deal for existing traders as well as newcomers who can pay as little as £75 per week to help them launch their business.
Market Manager David Harris said: “We want to continue to support our loyal occupiers, who have been through so much over recent years, and also encourage people with the right products and an idea for business to join us.
“The Protein Café is a great example of a business which has come here and been able to focus on coming up with good ideas rather than worry about how it’s going to pay ever-increasing bills. Unfortunately we are hearing so many stories about Teesside businesses – including cafes and restaurants – which are having to close because of rising costs. At least with The Protein Café there’s some good news for a change.”
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