Is it truly possible to have a restaurant-like dining experience in your own home? One with savory fare, prepared by food virtuosos, and served to your friends or family? Ryan Reisdorf thinks so. The founder and CEO of culinary business Placemat wants to turn your gathering into something as good as any upscale eatery. From brunch to dinner, the “healthy, feel-good food” includes about 40 options for appetizers, salads, sides, entrees, and desserts.

Ryan’s business idea came to him during nursing school. The Type 1 diabetic knew firsthand that better eating means better living. Living daily with his own nutritional and healing needs while in nursing school, he made Placemat accommodate a host of allergy and dietary requirements. This is something he wishes more restaurants would do, as it’s important to him. He asks, “Why can’t I go somewhere and ask for, you know, that same cinnamon roll or that same pizza, but have it be gluten and dairy-free?”

Reisdorf gives Launch Engine readers the skinny on his business: “So Placemat is an in-home restaurant in which we provide chefs with the information that they need, the tools, the resources, and the supplies to go into homes and Airbnbs and prepare family-style food seamlessly, conveniently and easily for the people that are hiring us.” Reisdorf further explains, “We operate the same way as a restaurant, but we just don’t have a brick-and-mortar, and we don’t have the typical operating costs of a restaurant.”

Placemat’s modus operandi as a private chef company opens a lot of doors for them, freeing them from the regulation and administrative duties of other food models. Their terms of use were inspired by Uber, so things like food prep can all be done within the home. Placemat chefs can come into a customer’s home, prepare food to the party’s liking, and present attendees with a scrumptious meal.

When thinking about the formation of the business back in 2017, Ryan was looking for the lowest barrier to entry into the food industry. He saw that there are 5,000 Airbnbs in Nashville, many of which have kitchens that don’t get used, even though conference attendees and bachelorette parties occupy the Airbnbs almost every weekend. Partnering with the Airbnbs gave Placemat access to guests and the ability to offer functional meals, localized to every neighborhood.

The private chef part also took some rethinking. Placemat eschews the standard 20 percent cost of the bill for a $50 flat fee. Ryan’s way of unclogging reservation systems and retaining the faith of the customer was to automate the response system. The litany of questions chefs face could now be handled the same way as booking a flight, hotel, or rental car, with the menu sent to the customer after the specific questions are answered.

“You have to give these potential customers all the information that they need to book a dinner without having to reach out personally,” he says. “I think the most important thing out of all of this is that we’ve developed trust with the consumer because they’re not waiting around… It’s more professional than waiting on a human to respond.”

Pictured: Ryan Reisdorf (Center).
So far, they’ve served close to 8,000 people at 700 events in eight states, including weddings, celebrations of life, and listening parties. Ryan says “We’ve traveled to London, Los Angeles, New York, Dallas with Maren Morris… She won Album of the Year this past year with CMA, I believe. And we traveled with her to the cities for listening parties for her, like a select group of her fans. And then… we came back to do her afterparty for the CMA Awards. And she won album of the year for that album… So that was something that was really special.”

Placemat also wants to get people in on the fun of making easy, manageable recipes. The idea of turning their 40 recipe catalog into a cookbook has been floated by the team. Reisdorf says that something linking prominent clientele and using their platforms to promote nutritional eating absolutely excites him. He says, “Placemat’s goal is to help people better and live longer, healthier lives. And so, if we hang onto this stuff, what good does that do for the people that we’re trying to help?”

On top of taking dinner orders for the pandemic, Placemat is also helping the Feeding Nashville network to prepare meals for families in need. If you want to see what they have to offer—including pricing, FAQ, and some recipes that you can make at home—stop by their website or visit their Facebook and Instagram.