The height of a pandemic may not seem like the best time to start a new venture in the food business. But for brothers and business partners Nic and Greg Bryon, social distancing and stay-at-home orders birthed opportunity.
In March, as most restaurants in the Tampa Bay Area were forced to temporarily close their dining rooms, the brothers started working on Pasta Packs, a meal delivery service that provides customers with the perfectly measured, fresh ingredients and simple instructions needed to create a delicious pasta meal at home.
The Bryon brothers make a multi-talented team, one bringing the culinary expertise; the other bringing years of business and entrepreneurial experience. Nic is a chef, trained in Miami’s vibrant hospitality scene, who has a track record of helping open successful restaurants. Greg is a photographer, designer, and partner in several local businesses, including Pep Rally, Inc., a creative agency based in Tampa that specializes in mural and art installation.
The idea of opening a restaurant together had always been in the back of the siblings’ minds, but the pieces never fell into place because both were busy with their own careers. However, when the pandemic caused Nic to be laid off from his job as a sous-chef at one of Tampa’s trendiest eateries, things suddenly changed.
“Sitting around bored wasn’t an option for me,” Nic says, who often worked 60-hour weeks at his previous job. He was laid off on a Friday and was working on Pasta Packs in full-force by the following Monday. He’d already developed an extensive pasta program, including a signature noodle and a variety of scratch-made sauces. It didn’t take long for Nic to take the meals he’d been serving to friends and family at Sunday dinners into a complete menu featuring fresh, local, and seasonal ingredients.
Greg handled the business and marketing side, including everything from overseeing the design of a professional quality website to designing marketing materials and handling all menu photography. With their complementary capabilities, Nic and Greg were able to start their business with little overhead, and at a rapid pace.
“The pace that we developed all this was absolutely crazy -- a month and a half from this not existing to having overwhelming sales,” says Greg.
Pasta Packs officially launched in May. So far, COVID-19 has not been a hindrance to the company’s success, other than by requiring Nic to shop for ingredients at odd hours to avoid crowds.
“I think we’re really lucky that the foundation of this business was created during the pandemic so that there are no challenges with social distancing,” Greg says. “It was born in the social distancing era.”
From the very beginning, the Bryon brothers set out to create an experience superior to traditional takeout and delivery. It had to travel well and stay fresh -- no soggy cardboard box meals that required reheating after being jostled around by a delivery driver.
Their solution is innovative, yet simple. Customers place their order for either pickup or delivery at least 24 hours in advance so everything is fresh -- the pasta in each order is rolled out that morning.
“It’s created so you can order a dish, take it home, take 10 minutes of your time to prep it, and you have an amazing plate of food as if you had a private chef in your home,” Greg says. “It makes you feel immediately like you know how to cook.”
Today, even as dining rooms have started reopening, Pasta Packs continues to thrive. The Bryon brothers’ passion for food and commitment to their work is surely a contributing factor.
For any would-be entrepreneurs looking to follow a similar path, both brothers say go for it, but be calculated.
“Surround yourself with a team of people who won’t be afraid to call you out on a bad idea, or poke holes in your game,” Nic says.
Greg urges anyone starting a business to know their limitations and be willing to tap into resources and connections for help.
“You have to work twice as hard as you’ve worked at any job,” he says. “Being an entrepreneur is not a job, it’s an investment, and if you don’t take care of your investment, you lose.”
Find more information at Pasta Packs.
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