After 28 years practicing physical therapy in hospitals and in patients’ homes, Lisa Cisco transformed her talent and love for cooking, baking and sharing into a home delivery meal business — Granny Meals — last July.

Now, with social distancing and COVID-19 precautions, “I’ve gotten so much busier,” she said. 

When working in people’s homes, Cisco noticed a huge need for nutritious home cooked food, and that people with physical limitations, especially the elderly, were no longer able to provide it for themselves.

Cisco said she has noticed a “pretty instant” increase in business about a month ago when Gov. Bill Lee issued his first safe-at-home order.

The coronavirus situation made her weekly trip to the grocery store for Granny Meals’ supplies difficult. She said she would have trouble finding the ingredients she needed or be unable to purchase the right amount because of store-enforced limitations on meat and other items. 

People used to come into the store for pick-up orders. Now, she’s encouraging people to stay in their cars, and she brings their orders to them, placing them in the car’s trunk to follow social distancing guidelines.

“People are really taking advantage of the delivery,” even those who used to pick up curbside, she said. The older customers “like to get out and visit” and aren’t used to taking advantage of Uber Eats or similar-type services; now “they’re seeing it’s great to have it (the Granny Meals order) brought to the house.”

Before the pandemic, Cisco said the most deliveries she’d done in a week was 30. Now, she said she does about 50 deliveries a week, with about 35 pickup orders. 

To keep up with demand, the business is moving to a larger suite in the same shopping center, Maple Leaf Village, in a couple of months. It will more triple the square footage that it now has and have a walk-in freezer for storing the meals, Cisco said.

She also offers “contact-free delivery.” The drivers will call the customers just before arriving, set down the food wherever it’s requested outside the home, and often pick up payment in an envelope placed at the delivery spot. The delivery drivers also use disinfectant wipes and gloves.

Losing face-to-face time with customers has been an adjustment, but Cisco now spends more time on the phone catching up with her customers.

The majority of her new customers are split between older and younger ones. Cisco, a Lascassas native who attended Oakland High School, is also working with churches that send her food to church members. The churches purchase “Granny Bucks,” a gift card that allows recipients to pick their own meals and then have them delivered.

 

Adding a staff

For most of the past year, Cisco ran the entire operation alone, doing the cooking, marketing and delivering.

In February, she hired married couple Don and Sherry Eakes (a retired nurse) to do the deliveries. It ended up being perfect timing because “they could get used to doing it (the delivery job) before the big rush (of COVID-19) hit,” Cisco said.

When she delivered meals by herself, Cisco said the process would take her about eight hours every Friday. Now, the Eakes spend about 7-8 hours driving and making deliveries. Cisco said she still makes a few deliveries to “keep a personal touch with customers, making sure everything’s OK.”

Jim and Nancy Johnson of Murfreesboro received some Granny Meals deliveries as a gift from their homecare provider.

“It was an answer to a prayer for us,” Nancy said. 

The Johnsons had been eating a lot of takeout meals and depending on their children for meals. They said they have been ordering Granny Meals deliveries for a few weeks now.

Cisco — and now the Eakes — bring the Johnson’s mail and newspaper to them with the meals. Before social distancing guidelines, they’d bring the food deliveries into the Johnsons’ kitchen and visit.

“They’re nice, wonderful people,” Nancy said. “We’re thrilled to have her to be a part of our lives right now. We don’t know what we’d do if we didn’t have her. She’s like part of our family.”

 

The meal plan

Cisco prepares one or two serving dishes of nutritious, made-from-scratch meals. Currently, there are 90 options on the menu. Along with the usual Southern dishes, there’s seafood, bread, desserts (including her popular Black Magic Cake) and sides.

“People do get tired of eating the same things,” she said.

Her most popular meal? Chicken and dressing with sweet potato casserole. Cisco said she makes 50 pounds of sweet potato casserole every week. Her personal favorite menu items are the meatball dishes and squash casserole.

The size and packaging of a meal is similar to a frozen dinner from the grocery store. The meals can be heated in either the oven or microwave before serving.

GRANNY MEALS

Pickup for meals is Thursdays from 2-6 p.m. at 855 West College Street, Suite D, in Murfreesboro. Deliveries are Fridays anywhere in Rutherford County. Call (615) 900-1622 to order. There is no delivery fee.

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