David and Stephanie Hamilton help their customers think differently about food and nutrition by taking a new approach to healthy dining options at Muscle Maker Grill.
By: Jessica Dusek
Photos by: Mark Joseph/Darklab Photography
“My eyes were open. We thoroughly believed that we needed to do it,” says franchise owner David Hamilton in reference to why he and his wife and co-owner, Stephanie Hamilton, chose to open the new and increasingly popular Muscle Maker Grill restaurant. Opening in November 2015, Muscle Maker Grill graced the Corpus Christi market with a new restaurant approach: healthier food options with flavorful appeal.
Stephanie and David believe that people shouldn’t have to compromise flavor in order to eat healthily. By adding tenderizing marinades to the mix, Muscle Maker Grill accomplishes this. “We knew people wanted it; we just had to bring it,” explains David of the Corpus Christi market.
Landing the Rookie of the Year title, David and Stephanie have helped make a mark on nutritional cuisine selections for South Texans. With a name like “Muscle Maker Grill,” the eatery is surprisingly not solely for the most muscular patrons. “The name can be intimidating,” David admits. However, he explains that most of his patrons are people who are curious and looking to make a change in their body or their health.
The restaurant focuses on offering a wide variety of options ranging from low-carb and high-protein options to high-carb and high-protein options, depending on the needs of the consumer. They also focus on educating and bringing awareness to all patrons, which continues to be a driving passion and inspiration for the Hamiltons to continue providing healthier dining options to South Texas.
The Hamiltons embarked on their franchise endeavor after starting a meal-prep business out of their home. In fact, their story somewhat parallels that of the founder of Muscle Maker Grill, who also began a food prep-business out of his smoothie shop. David and Stephanie scratched the surface when they started a 21-day fit diet program. “We’ve always been in sports and in the gym, but never focused on diet or nutrition,” David says. “Being healthy is 20 percent fitness and 80 percent diet.” Stephanie adds her experience, “The results we get are ridiculous (in a good way).”
Their personal lifestyle changes increased the couple’s passion to eat healthy food and to feel good as a bi-product of meal prepping for themselves. “There are so many people who want to change [their health]; they just don’t know how,” Stephanie says. Soon, friends and family members were asking Stephanie and David to prep meals for them, as well.
“The majority of our customers were older clients just starting their fitness journey or were diabetic,” explains David of their early food prep days. “It hit close to home,” Stephanie adds. The fact that both have lost family members to diabetes fueled the couple’s passion to share a food experience that would help customers think differently about food and nutrition.
“We really believe in paying it forward,” Stephanie says, “[and] God is behind every decision we make; the path is to help other people.” Their passion to live a new lifestyle and promote healthy food choices guided them to approach Muscle Maker Grill to open a franchise in Corpus Christi.
Higher nutritional value, healthier food
“The response was outstanding,” describes David of the community’s response to their opening. With Corpus Christi previously ranking sixth in obesity in the United States, Corpus Christi is a community that values flavorful foods. Health foods or foods cooked with less hydrogenated or highly caloric oils can seem less appealing. However, retraining one’s taste buds is not as difficult as it may seem. It involves looking at food in a different way.
Muscle Maker Grill meals are designed to create fuel in the body while leveling blood sugars. This alone decreases the body’s desire for sugar. “This is about more than just looking good,” Stephanie says. “One of our customers has told us that he no longer suffers from heartburn or acid reflux [since eating with Muscle Maker Grill].” Even their manager has jumped on board: According to David, he has lost 45 pounds.
“The Godfather is one of the most popular menu items,” David says. “It is probably our top favorite. It’s actually chicken breast that is marinated for three days then sautéed in a gluten and fat-free balsamic vinaigrette sauce. It is then served on to of a bed of steamed broccoli and topped with portabella mushrooms, roasted red peppers and reduced-fat-mozzarella cheese.”
The restaurant also offers sandwiches, salad options, pasta, wraps, stir fry, burgers, smoothies and many other entrees. Many customers are even greeted by David and Stephanie’s children from time to time. Also offering a kids’ menu, the establishment appeals to working parents on the go.
As their journey to health continued, the Hamiltons chose to enter the world of fitness completions as a couple. After weeks of health-conscious decisions, Stephanie was encouraged to make the bold last-minute move to enter her very first competition. Her husband was there to cheer her on. He says, “…and I cried,” as he remembers fondly of his wife’s triumph at the Battle on the Bay. “Finding myself again and finding that person – being able to set a goal and reach it” is what Stephanie gained from competing. “Even though I didn’t win [Battle on the Bay], I still won.”
The sound in their voice paints it plainly. The couple chose to listen to an internal pull regardless of the risk by investing in themselves. Today, they share their accomplishments with their customers and the community.
In and around the community
Distributing food at Battle on the Bay, they sold 600 meals. They were proud to donate the unsold meals to a local food charity. The Hamiltons look forward to expanding their business and are presently looking into ways to bring more meals out into the community; perhaps a food truck will be a future addition.
“That’s how you eat an elephant: You take one bite at a time,” says David of their future plans. His wife can’t hold back her laughter as she pokes fun at her husband’s off-the-cuff humor.
For more information about Muscle Maker Grill, visit the location in Corpus Christi at 7426 S. Staples, Ste. 2, or call 361-992-9696.