We had the good fortune of connecting with Josh Buckwald and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Josh, what do you attribute your success to?
We are a hospitality company that happens to sell pasta.
My background in restaurants was obviously essential to Orso’s success… You can’t make food without learning how to cook first. But the most important takeaway from that industry that didn’t occur to me until much later was the dedication to hospitality – to making people feel good – and what an incredible positive impact that can have on your business.
Every company pays some form of lip service to the notion of loving their customers. They throw around words like family a lot, and every company claims that customer service and satisfaction is the highest priority.
In truth, that mantra is easy to declare and incredibly hard to execute in a consistent way. When you’re running a small business, and you are the book keeper, marketer, inventory manager, HR department, delivery man, chef, and janitor – it can be really hard to prioritize something as intangible and amorphous as creating an awesome customer experience. Which is why for most companies, it goes by the wayside. Have you ever called a customer service number and not been able to reach a human? What about emailing a “help@…” address only to get an auto response with FAQs instead? I understand why companies do this. Like I said, there are a lot of hats to wear in a day, and this does seem like one that can be set aside – but for us that was never an option.
While Orso isn’t a restaurant, we treat our customers as if they were guests in a fine dining restaurant. It’s just how we were raised (professionally, anyway). From the moment you land on our homepage, to long after your order was placed, shipped, eaten, and enjoyed – we treat every communication with every customer as an individual experience, designed to make you feel heard, loved, and taken care of.
The Orso family is actually a family, and I think in the world of business that’s more rare than we realize.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Orso makes fresh restaurant quality pasta and sauces, then ships them to your door so you can enjoy them at home whenever you’d like.
We use beautiful ingredients and a variety of traditional pasta making techniques to create a product that is truly stellar, and better than the boxed stuff at the grocery store in every way. Our sauces are next level – weather its our take on one of the classics (Bolognese, Cacio e Pepe, Arrabbiata) or something completely original like our Apricot Chicken Ragu – there truly isn’t another sauce product that comes close in quality or depth of flavor outside of a restaurant setting.
Maintaining that commitment to freshness and quality, while scaling up and trying to reach as many people as possible, has been a significant challenge for us. There isn’t really a playbook to follow because no one’s really tried doing what we’re doing before. That’s terrifying, and leads to a lot of trial and error, but it’s also the fun part. We’re firmly in unchartered territory.
Orso runs on raw passion. If there’s one thing we do well, it’s attract good hearted people who are crazy enough to love what we’re doing as much as we do.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I live in Silverlake, so we’d have to start with a lap of all my favorite neighborhood spots. Maru for coffee, Night+Market Song for dinner, and grab a drink outside at Black Cat to close out the night.
Employees Only is obviously my favorite bar in the city. Through their “Summer Social Club” program they host a rotation of pop-ups that feature the city’s best up and coming chefs. I recommend going on Saturdays or Sundays. There’s this company Orso that does their pop ups then and the pasta is to die for…
LA loveeees a new restaurant opening, so if there’s a major one happening while my friend is in town, I’d be doing them a disservice to not take them and join in on the hype. These days, that means Damien in the Arts District. I went with my wife a few weeks ago and lost my mind. Everything was incredible.
For hangouts, there’s no better place than the Angeles Forest. I will not tell you my favorite hiking trails as they’re all already too crowded! But take your dog, and your friends, and go explore. It’s the most beautiful place in the city.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are a ton of people that have been instrumental to everything Orso is today. My wife, Alison, is an endless source of support and encouragement. The fact that she is gluten free and let us run a pasta factory out of our 800 square foot apartment during a pandemic has earned her a lifetime supply of goodwill from me and the entire team.
Roni Davis, my right hand woman, was employee #1 and has grown into a total badass chef in her own right. Watching her grow and lead the production team at Orso now is probably the part of the job that gives me the most joy these days.
Tom Sopit, and the entire team at Employees Only have become inextricably linked to Orso’s success. Over the pandemic our landlord-tenant relationship blossomed into full on sister-businesses, and we couldn’t be happier about it.
Cindi Thompson at Crafted Kitchen was an early mentor for me. There are a lot of major differences between the restaurant business and the consumer food business and while it’s never been easy, she spared me from learning a bunch of things the hard way.
Those are four big ones, but I could go on forever…