This Boston Startup Is Looking to Solve Dinner Madness

After a long day, no one wants to answer the dreaded nightly question: what’s for dinner?

Founded in 2014, The Dinner Daily wants to solve this problem. Based in Westford, Mass., this online service creates a weekly, five-day, personalized dinner menu and shopping list for users based on their specific dietary needs, where they shop, and the promotion specials for the week.

The self-funded company was created by Laurin Mills, a mother of three, while she was working as a CPA for Ernst and Young in Boston.

Mills said that after working all day, figuring out a way to get dinner on the table every night for her family was a feat in itself.

“My husband and I were like: ‘Look we are totally stressed out all the time around dinner time,’” Mills said. “We never have a plan. We’re disorganized. We’re overspending, and we’re eating poorly in the process.”

Laurin Mills, founder and CEO of The Dinner Daily. Photo provided

Fed up, Mills sat down one night with the coupon flyer to her local grocery store and an Excel spreadsheet, and started to make a meal plan and budget based on the weekly specials.

“It was through that whole process of realizing how much better life was during the week when I was organized,” Mills said. “I started sharing it with friends and family, and the next thing I knew I had this growing email list of people I didn’t know who wanted to get the email of that ‘Market Basket menu’ I did.”

Users wanting to subscribe have to register on the website for a monthly fee of $4. Mills said that this option is more financially attainable for a family than the popular and expensive box meal companies like Blue Apron.

Users can then pick their menu preferences such as what meats they eat or if they have an allergen or dietary restriction.

The recipes are all created in-house, and are healthy and easy to make, according to Mills. If a user doesn’t like one of the recipes for that week or doesn’t feel like eating fish per say, the menus come with recipes to swap out.

Sally Harris, a friend of Mills, took over the product development at The Dinner Daily in late 2015, bringing her background in marketing and product management at Apple to the table. When Harris joined the company, menus were still overwhelmingly being crafted by hand.

“When I started out, it would take a human being about two and a half hours to make a menu for a different store,” Harris said. “Obviously that doesn’t scale very well. From a technology perspective, what we tried to do was build a system to capture the human logic.”

Harris and Mills took the time to add in the steps that they would use personally to craft menus for their own dinner tables such as never repeating a recipe within an eight-week time span, only using familiar ingredients, and never pairing different elements that needed to cook at differing oven temperatures.

Currently, the service covers about 60 percent of the grocery store chains in the country and is offered as an employee benefit at over 100 companies, according to Mills. She wants to make that number 75 percent by the end of 2018.

“Our goal is to become that mainstream service that everyone will use,” Mills said.

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