A new catering company and restaurant in Ballantyne has a business model that's a little different from most.
Brown Bag started in Knoxville and Nashville before opening its first Charlotte location in April, at 5231 Piper Station. It's a catering company focusing on simple, home-style food, with an eat-in location that's open for lunch. They deliver to events for a minimum of 10 people (it's usually $9 a person and up, with a $25 delivery and set-up fee up to 35 miles).
It also has bulk foods for pickup, like trays of chicken or vegetables you can use for events or for your own meal shortcuts, like 2-pound trays of grilled sliced steak. You can find the list of foods and prices on the website, www.brownbagnow.com.
There's something different they're doing, though, that will grab your attention. Co-owner Dan Mathewson, who runs the Charlotte location, told us about it:
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Called Brown Bag Blessing, you can call in a crisis and the company will donate a meal for up to eight people, using food left at the end of the day. Examples: When someone dies suddenly, and you're trying to figure out how to feed everyone who is coming together, or when there is a medical situation and you need to come up with food for people.
You call the company, give them 24 hours' notice and pick it up between 1:30 and 3 p.m.
"You tell us who needs a blessing and we prepare a meal for up to eight people," he said. "We give based on what the need is."
For instance, he said, a woman contacted them recently because her friend's husband had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and everyone was in shock. Brown Bag arranged a meal she could pick up and take to the family.
Mathewson, a former associate English professor (the other co-owners are a former professional golfer and a former manager for Qdoba), says the business is run on Christian principles.
"If we say we're Christians and serve the community . . . a lot of people say that. We believe in it. Our goal is to work with whoever. We do it to the best of our capability. If we have leftover food, why would we want to waste it?"
Another Brown Bag tradition: There's a wipe-off board at the restaurant where you can buy a friend a meal. They got the inspiration from seeing bars do it with drinks. Here, if you get a $10 lunch, you can pay $15 instead and write a friend's name on the board. The friend gets a free lunch: They just have to go by and eat, then wipe their name off the board.
"We're going to have to get a second board," he said. "People are fascinated."