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Local website gives rise to meal kit industry in South Bend

| Wednesday, September 23, 2020

A new South Bend local website, Chompion, was created by restaurant owner Kevin Lawler and software engineer Matt Knapper to connect customers with local restaurants that provide take-out meal kits. 

Chompion provides a platform for the rising meal kit industry and helps the restaurants gain businesses during the pandemic. 

“Unlike a lot of other existing platforms, we are trying to help our restaurants by not taking the major cuts of their existing revenue, especially with the way the economy is right now in the restaurant industry,” Lawler said. “It is not a good time to be asking for more money from them.” 

Lawler and Knapper said they launched the website after seeing a need to help the local community during the pandemic, which has been notably hard for restaurants facing restrictions and lower levels of people going out to eat. 

“Overall, we’re trying to really help make our community better and a lot of that is offering these new ways of doing things considering health and safety … because we need these businesses employing people and adding to the culture and the vibrancy of the city,” Lawler said. 

Knapper has been building e-commerce sites for restaurants and groceries for the last five years and was able to apply his expertise in developing Chompion. 

“Our website is like a two-sided marketplace,” Knapper said. “So restaurants are able to list their meal kits, and we’re helping them put together, and the customers are able to shop in from different providers. So when [customers] are making payments to us, we’re the ones distributing the money to all the restaurants.”

Chompion currently has around 12 active restaurants on the platform at any given time. They hope to attract more restaurants to Chompion and eventually expand this platform to more cities across the country. 

“We’ll be adding more restaurants on the platform, and we’re adding more each week as we go. … We’re seeing more and more customers come on board finding their favorite restaurants on the platform,” Lawler said. “And we’re really trying to build a system that we can take and help our local restaurants that we care about here in South Bend, but also build a system that we could take into other cities and other markets.”

Courtesy of Kevin Lawler and Matt Knapper
Matt Knapper, left, and Kevin Lawler, right, created the website “Chompion” to connect local South Bend restaurants with community members wanting take-home meal kits during the pandemic.

Chompion brings a new source of revenue to local restaurants in addition to traditional dine-in meals. 

“For each of these restaurants, the great thing for them is that this is not revenue that they would have been making at dinner that night,” Lawler said. “This is a separate new revenue that they’re able to prep during the day [and] they’re able to have people come and pick it up and prepare at home. So it’s not really competing with the people who are coming in to eat in the restaurant. We’re sort of bringing a different client that is looking for the at-home experience, rather than going out to eat,” Lawler said. 

Yet, Knapper said, the restaurants are not overwhelmed by orders placed through Chompion.

“Just like one or two evening rushes that you’d see [in restaurants] on a Friday or Saturday, we’re basically presenting a brand new deal of rush to these restaurants without [the restaurants] actually being any busier during those times,” Knapper said. 

The fun thing for customers ordering from Chompion is that they get a video clip of the chef putting their food together which Lawler said also offers “a fun connection” to people. 

“We actually go and film the chef or the restaurant owner, creating the meal in their own kitchen. And then you can do that same thing at home and that way you know you did it right,” Lawler said. “You also get to know the chef or the restaurant owner a little better, and that allows them to share the stories, the inspiration behind their dishes.” 

For Lawler, the name Chompion is a product of creativity. 

Our business — and our customers — are champions for local restaurants and locally-produced food and drink,” Lawler said. “But of course, since we’re talking about food, we decided to tweak the name to incorporate ‘chomp’, which led us to Chompion.” 

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