For this Homegrown Business feature we spoke with Michael Sullivan, founder/culinary director for Community of Menus and Meals Online, a one-stop food and beverage experience.
What is your business called and what does it do?
CoMMO, short for Community of Menus and Meals Online, is a true one-stop food and beverage experience offering chef-made frozen meals, hot takeout menus, a mix of domestic, import and hyper-local craft beer and a diverse selection of restaurant-exclusive wines. CoMMO allows customers to conveniently enjoy restaurant-quality meals at home without the planning, preparation, clean up or restaurant prices.
What made you want to do this work?
Being in the hospitality industry since I was 15 years old, I’ve always had a passion for simple, high-quality food and drink and been interested in the evolution of Toronto’s food scene. This project/concept has been in the works for over a year now, but has become even more relevant and necessary since the pandemic. By partnering with Betty’s and local suppliers, we’ve been able to bring this vision to life at a time when people need it most.
What problem did you want to solve with the business?
After taking a step back from the business, we realized there was a hole in the takeout market for better at-home dining experiences. Most takeout is limited to items that will travel well and is often underwhelming and overpriced because of the high fees delivery platforms charge restaurants. Meal kits assist with a lot of the prep, however, still require some cooking skill and equipment and store-bought frozen meals often lack in quality and nutrients.
We wanted to make it easy for our community to enjoy a wider variety of restaurant-quality food and beverage experiences at home any time they want without the work and at a price that makes sense, so you can feel good about what you’re eating and get back time for other important things.
Who are your clientele/demographics?
Our demographic is essentially anyone downtown Toronto (specifically focussed on King & Parliament and St. Lawrence/Distillery neighbourhoods until delivery is up and running), 25 to 65 year old singles, couples or families, looking for more variety, convenience and better quality at home meal solutions to solve the daily “what’s for dinner?” dilemma.
How does your business make money? How does it work?
By partnering with an existing restaurant space and operating with a small team, low overhead costs allow high-quality food items to be well priced ($9 to $12 per person for a meal) while also offering a wide selection of impressive wines and craft beer for varying preferences and price points. Customers can order hot takeout for tonight, restaurant-quality frozen meals for later in the week and drinks for any time, in person or online at commo.ca.
Because our margins are very low, it’s a volume-based business. By having multiple revenue streams, we’re able to keep our prices low while creating more demand.
Where in Toronto can we find your profession?
Our first storefront is located in the east room of Betty’s at 242 King Street East, near Sherbourne and King in Toronto.
What is the best question a prospective customer could ask a member of your profession when comparing services? Give the answer as well.
Q: What differentiates CoMMO from other takeout/bottle shops?
A: At CoMMO, customers can mix-and-match favourite takeout items for dinner tonight, stock up on restaurant-quality frozen meals for the rest of the week, and add drinks for any time all in one order. All of our frozen meals are less than $25 and feed 2 to 4 people with new items being added weekly.
What is the best part about what you do? What is the worst part?
The best part of operating CoMMO is being able to partner/support our friends and neighbours in the industry. We love being able to work with hyper-local craft breweries in Toronto’s east-end and local suppliers who have supported the hospitality industry for years.
The worst part is seeing our community struggle and the industry we love change so rapidly through no fault of our own. It’s been an extremely difficult year for most industries, but it’s clear that Toronto’s independent restaurants and bars have been one of the hardest hit.
What is your favourite joke about your own profession?
One of my favourite sayings: “We’re not saving lives, we’re selling food.”
It’s common for people to tend to get stressed in the hospitality industry due to the high volume and fast-paced environment. I often think we shouldn’t be taking ourselves so seriously. We’re providing a service that people want and need, so do it well and you’ll be rewarded for it.
PAY IT FORWARD: What is another Toronto business that you love?
I love what Jamieson and the team is doing over at Q&B Pie Co. Bringing their famous pies people have been enjoying at Queen & Beaver for 11 years to takeout is the kind of innovative shift I’m happy to see and support. Not to mention, the pies are ridiculously delicious.