ELMONT, Long Island - The meal delivery service business is booming. In just a few years, sales have topped $400 million per year, with more than 100 companies delivering meals to doorsteps country-wide. But what happens when instead of delivering the bag - it leaves customers holding it?
Peter London's plans to lose weight got sliced and diced last month after he paid a service promising to delivery low-calorie meals to his door.
But London says he wound up getting chopped, when he says, "All of a sudden delivery stopped."
London had paid "Lean Chefs Inc." more than $1,800 in advance, taking advantage of a discount for pre-ordering two months worth of fresh fare.
"The daily cost was about $31 a day," London said.
But after eight days, instead of three gourmet meals and two snacks in these black bags, he got bupkis.
"It was very upsetting because I was committed to doing this and it stopped on a dime," London said.
Three miles away in Elmont, Elisa Leary pre-paid nearly $3,000, says she too was left hungry and high and dry.
"Everything was going well till about a month ago," Leary said.
Working long hours in retail, the avid traveler was gearing up to slim down for her and her husbands next adventure. She bought 93 days of meal in advance, the shortage, shorted out her budget big-time.
"I have to buy breakfast, lunch, dinner. So I'm doubly paying," Leary said.
London's problem was a medical necessity. He shared a picture of himself surrounded by paramedics after suffered a massive heart attack while at the gym. The 46-year-old needed the heart healthy meals to keep him on track.
"I changed my whole lifestyle," London said. "I was working out and eating well."
Both Leary and London initially got email excuses from Lean Chefs for the delays.
"They (said they) had problems with production. They're expanding their kitchen," London said.
But as the days stretched into weeks with no food and they tried to get refunds.
We called LeanChefs, whose office is listed on Madison Avenue in Manhattan, asking about these Long Island customers.
And after 7 On Your Side's contact, a full refund was issued in 48 hours for London; a cashier's check for $1,821.
"Thank you so much. I'm incredibly grateful it's a blessing," London said.
And Leary also got paid a refund, $1,172, the total for every meal not delivered.
In emails to it's customers, Lean Chefs Inc. apologized, stating it ran into "unforeseen circumstances" temporarily stopping services. The company never responded to 7 On Your Side's questions asking what happened and whether now they're up and running. But before you start a food delivery service - read the terms of the contract carefully. Pay close attention to the cancellation policy - and check whether refunds are allowed. Bon appetite!