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Lincoln caterers shift during pandemic to emphasize family/weekly meals
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Lincoln caterers shift during pandemic to emphasize family/weekly meals

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Since this past spring, Lincoln dining services and establishments have faced a troubling situation. The COVID-19 virus has resulted in diminished patronage, and now with the colder months, business could become more abated.

In addition to the carryout option for customers, some locally owned caterers and restaurants have placed an emphasis on providing “family” or “weekly” meals that can be delivered to, or picked up, by patrons.

In this month’s L Magazine, we look at three local caterers who are assisting working families and individuals with a focus on providing healthy and full meals.

ChefauChef Catering has been around since the early 2010s, with owner/chef Aaron Young heading up the kitchen and management sides of business.

Prior to the pandemic’s arrival, Young established the concept of fresh, affordable and healthy meals for the community in January 2019 with Wham Bam Meal in a Pan. “It’s not fast food,” he says.

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Each Saturday morning, ChefauChef posts a menu for the week with choices of three proteins, two starches and two veggies to feed family and friends. Orders are accepted online (preferred) or by phone with the order cutoff generally noon prior to the day desired.

Some of the recent Meal in a Pan menus have included: BBQ lentils and brown rice, tiger mash (sweet potato cauliflower mashed potatoes) and California blend; meatballs in bleu cheese cream sauce, tiger mash and roasted California blend; herb crusted chicken breast, roast potatoes and broccoli; and creamy marinara Italian sausage pasta bake with bread sticks and green beans.

Servings and costs are provided in increments of two -- two portions, $13; four portions, $26; six portions, $39. Pick-ups are Monday through Thursday, from 3:30 to 7 p.m., or via contactless delivery ($3 within Lincoln) from 4 to 6 p.m. the same days.

Young says that reactions have been favorable, with customer comments about the low prices and the variety of meal items, plus reduced stress for working families.

Laurie Fraser, chief executive officer for Doorstep Diner Catering, comments that the business’ weekly Family Style Meals have been greatly appreciated by customers.

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“Moms and Dads can be overworked during this time,” Fraser says. “Kids are at home a lot more. Stress can build up. These family meals are one last thing to deal with.”

The weekly meals (at $30 and “large enough for four hungry people”) are posted on the Doorstep Diner website and Facebook page Friday nights/Saturday mornings. Customers order online by Monday morning, with curbside pickup at one of their two Doorstep Diner sites on Tuesdays – at the time option that the customer chooses.

Changing every week, the meals are prepared using fresh and raw ingredients, and include such options as Asado Chicken with seasoned Orzo and spinach with lemon; Mango Salsa Chicken with black beans and cilantro lime rice; Bahn Mi Sandwich Kit – Asian BBQ Pork; and Beef Tips and gravy, garlic mashed potatoes and Chef's blend vegetables.

With the COVID-19 pandemic in full swing, Jessica Framke, owner and chef at A2 Squared Catering and Meal Prep, put a hold on her catering service and focused her full attention on providing carryout and weekly family meals.

She said that family meals have been a part of her culinary service since starting her business full time in 2018, but that the family meals have really taken off since March last year.

As a sole one-person operated business, Framke is honest and appreciative of the loyalty her customer base has demonstrated. “Lincoln has been great and shown strong support for small local businesses,” she says.

A2’s menu also changes weekly with customer pick-up or delivery on Sundays and Mondays. Framke says that A2 is open and flexible for its customers to pick up, and she will handle deliveries for whatever works for the customer. She said that she has delivered to Crete, Seward and even Omaha.

“Our meals are healthy meals that are cooked and ready for customers to pop in the oven or microwave and reheat,” she explains. All dishes come with reheating instructions.

Some examples of A2’s offerings include Italian Sausage and Spinach Rigatoni (whole wheat pasta prepared with a fresh ricotta, sliced chicken, Italian chicken sausage with fresh spinach and freshly grated Parmesan cheese; Cajun Fajita casserole (sweet red peppers, onions, large shrimp, chicken andouille sausage and boneless skinless chicken breast, served with tortillas, cheese and a sour cream alternative); Spaghetti and Meatballs (whole grain spaghetti, ricotta cheese, chunky veggie sauce, turkey meatballs topped with mozzarella cheese, and a loaf of French bread). A family meal costs $20, and according to Framke, “will comfortably feed up to five hearty eaters.”

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Framke explains the A2 Squared portion of the business’ name – two of her children are named Alexander and Addison (Alex and Addy), and she has always called them “A Squared.” The business’ name just seemed natural.

All three of the establishments expressed their gratitude and appreciation for the public support they have received as local businesses during this hard time. Framke sums it up with this: “We give a little … they [the public] help a little … we’re all in it together.”

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