Attend a conference at the Wisconsin School of Business and you’re likely to see your fair share of suits, blazers, and other types of business wear. But the scene looked just a bit different when around 70 franchise owners from across the country—many clad in chef’s jackets—descended on Grainger Hall in October for the first-ever Chefs for Seniors conference.
For attendees, it was a chance to connect with existing peers and make new connections. For company founder Nathan Allman (BBA ’15), however, the experience was also a homecoming. Allman was a student at WSB when he founded Chefs for Seniors after initially pitching the idea during the school’s annual business plan competition—and winning the category for lifestyle products and services.
Described as an alternative to senior meal delivery services, Chefs for Seniors has steadily grown since its 2013 launch. Alongside his father Barrett, who co-owns the business, Allman now focuses on franchising the concept beyond Wisconsin. Since 2017, the number of Chefs for Seniors franchise locations has grown to 80 nationwide and has been named a top new franchise by Entrepreneur magazine for the past two years.
WSB recently caught up with Allman after the conclusion of the two-day conference.
WSB: What is Chefs for Seniors all about?
Allman: Simply put, our service helps older adults age in place and ensures they’re eating well. We offer a service that’s convenient and surprisingly affordable so our clients can spend more time doing the things they love—and less time worrying about cooking. Our highly skilled personal chefs prepare delicious, home-cooked meals right in our client’s home kitchens. We create menus that are 100% customized to not only fit dietary needs but also excite palates. Our chefs are ServSafe certified, undergo thorough background checks, and are fully insured. Plus, clients can enjoy watching them perform their culinary magic.
WSB: For you, what was the highlight of this year’s event?
Allman: Being able to see our franchise owners—many of whom had never met in-person—network with each other for two days and make connections that will undoubtedly last for years to come. Owning a small business can be a lonely experience at times, and it meant a lot for our owners to connect with others in the same boat, so to speak. Also, the opportunity for my father and I to recognize franchise owners who took a leap of faith and invested in Chefs for Seniors during the early days of franchising was a heartfelt moment for everyone.
WSB: What did it mean to you to have this event hosted at WSB?
Allman: It was incredible to see Chefs for Seniors come full circle and host our first conference in the room where, in many ways, the company began 10 years ago. Back when I was a 19-year-old student entering my idea into the school’s business plan competition, I never would have imagined that I’d be hosting franchise owners from across the country in that same room at Grainger Hall more than a decade later. It was truly surreal and easily one of my most memorable experiences as an entrepreneur.
WSB: Any plans to bring this event back next year?
Allman: Our first in-person conference went so well that it’ll no doubt be the first of many. Our only challenge next year will be finding a large enough space for everyone since our goal is to hit 100 franchises by the time next year’s event rolls around!
Read more about Allman in the Fall 2016 issue of WSB’s Update magazine.