Superfoods café Vitality Bowls has found a home in the Omaha metro area and owner and operator Katie DeSantis has set her sights on growing its presence.
Since launching the first Nebraska arm of the California-based franchise four years ago, Vitality Bowls has grown from its initial Aksarben Village location to a second café at The Shops of Legacy, while carving out considerable health-focused community partnerships that have further played a role in the health of the business.
“Our unique products, along with our focus on building relationships, have allowed us to maintain a strong reputation in the Omaha market,” DeSantis said. “We offer many unique ingredients you won’t likely find in other Omaha restaurants.”
Famously, the cafes are known (and named) after their açaí bowls – thick, cold, blended smoothie bowls with toppings.
“For many, this is likely their healthiest meal of the day,” DeSantis explained. “We offer a long list of items that boost the nutritional content of our menu offerings, such as graviola, pitaya, spirulina and bee pollen, to name a few.”
From forward-thinking foods to forging partnerships, she noted how Vitality Bowls has supported local causes alongside other businesses, schools and nonprofits.
“One of our goals has always been to provide Omaha with a healthier food choice, but we’ve grown our brand in Omaha by being active in the community,” DeSantis said. “It began with health fairs, supporting other businesses with activities (such as their grand openings/anniversaries), food drives [and] dine-in days fundraisers where we direct a percentage of sales back to various organizations.”
During the pandemic efforts were centered on donating smoothies to health care workers at several local hospitals. During the month of November, customers who brought in an item to stock the Divine Mercy Pantry at St. Vincent De Paul Catholic Church received $1 off their purchase.
“We have done this in previous years and realize that the demand at our local food pantries has been extremely high with the pandemic,” she said. “Being in the food industry, support of our food pantries has been important to us.”
DeSantis further spoke to other business partnerships.
“Given my parents were small business owners, even prior to opening Vitality Bowls I’ve always tried to support small businesses as much as possible,” she said. “When we opened … we worked with Nebraska Barnwood to build our restaurant furniture and hired a local artist to help us with our artwork.
“We have also looked for ways to offer products from other local brands such as A Hill of Beans, FishEye Kombucha and Artemis Tea.”
She said the business was poised to expand its point-of-sale options to include a few local brands, too.
Ingredients Behind a Healthy Bottomline
Other threads that weave through the business have proven to be particularly fortuitous, especially through the pandemic and its lasting effects.
“Even prior to the pandemic, I have always placed a strong emphasis on staffing,” DeSantis stated. “I have a corporate human resources background and know that, without my employees, keeping the doors open at Vitality Bowls would not be possible. It’s extremely important to prioritize recruiting and retention.”
By bringing strong talent into the business from the get-go, DeSantis has been able to train and promote from within.
“This has allowed us to maintain our business hours, provide strong customer service and grow our business in ways that would not have been possible,” she said.
Furthermore, employees have “stuck around” due to her focus on creating a “fun and flexible work environment.”
“I’ve encouraged employees to grow their resumes through providing them with new experiences and increased responsibilities,” she added.
DeSantis has tackled rising food costs by focusing on vetting vendors and consistently exploring ways to decrease the expense associated with ingredients – without sacrificing the quality of the product.
“It’s also been critical to focus on operating with little to no food waste, which has made our business model sustainable,” she added.
Furthermore, the business has not only sustained but also grown both its loyalty program to 8,000-plus customers, and its catering program to large groups and athletic teams. Its menu has followed suit; broadened offerings include grain bowls, toast options and wraps.
“An evolving menu is something we have always wanted to be able to offer,” DeSantis explained. “So, we are always looking for ways to enhance our offerings while providing our crowd pleasers.”
Looking ahead, Vitality Bowls is laser-focused on fun and forward-moving partnerships.
“We partner with one of Nebraska’s largest athletic training centers, Xplosive Edge, and are looking to enhance our program with them,” she said. “We are also working to support an up-and-coming organization called SheMate that is working to support local and national female athletes, which we are very excited about.”
Aksarben Village: 1922 S 67th St, Omaha, NE 68106
The Shops of Legacy: 2835 South 170th Plaza, Ste 208, Omaha, NE 68130
Social Media: Facebook • Instagram • LinkedIn