Latest Fast Food Trend: Organic

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People are inspired to create restaurants by all sorts of things, for all sorts of reasons. Former NBA star Ray Allen, who just opened one of  the first organic restauranst in the U.S., was inspired by the special food needs of his son, Walker, who has Type 1 diabetes. Ray’s partner in the venture, which will see its first location, called Grown, open in Miami this spring, is his wife, TV producer Shannon Allen. Walker is one of five Allen children.

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Grown intends to offer organic soups, salads, sandwiches, wraps, gluten-free baked goods, fruit smoothies, cold-pressed juices, coffees and teas at price points in the $4-18 range, the South Florida Business Journal reported recently.

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The Journal’s web site also noted that Grown – which doesn’t appear to have its own web site yet – “will have the perks of fast food restaurants, without the grease.” Its amenities will include a drive through, indoor and outdoor seating, a rooftop garden, and space for such events as cooking classes and wellness demos.

Overseeing the food side will be Executive Chef Todd Kiley, whose LinkIn profile describes him as (a) co-founder of Grown. His background includes experience with Boston’s Legendary Restaurant Group, Legal Sea Foods, and the Back Bay Restaurant Group.

He says on LinkedIn that at Grown, “We are marrying fast and nutritious to not only bridge the enormous divide in the market: but to provide busy people with an option they can finally feel good about, health and convenience.”

The latter part of that statement pretty well sums up what Shannon Allen said in describing to the Miami Herald how the concept was developed:

“I had an aha-moment where I realized I couldn’t sit around helpless waiting for someone else to create a fast food option that met our family’s dietary needs,” she said. “… As we did our research, it became obvious that this wasn’t a struggle unique to us: families everywhere are looking for convenience without compromise.”

Even less compromising, in a unique way, is another new organic restaurant, this one in California, and the first in the nation to be ‘certified’ organic by the USDA.

Opened recently by Erica Welton, formerly a food buyer for Costco, The Organic Coup

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has the ultimate in simple menus: The main (and, apparently, the only) ‘entrée’ is “Mary’s Spicy Organic Air Chilled Chicken Breast Fried in Organic Coconut Oil” on a bun, in a multigrain tortilla wrap, or in a bowl. All options include “organic spicy shredded veggies,” and an assortment of sauces are offered. One (and only one) side is offered: Organic caramel-covered popcorn with a chocolate ‘drizzle’.

Business Insider noted recently that The Organic Coup “is pricier than your average fast-food restaurant: [Its] fried-chicken sandwich costs $8.99, compared to under $4 for a chicken sandwich at Chick-fil-A.”

But as the photo above suggests (!), there isn’t much price resistance from customers, who clearly are willing to wait more than a minute or two to be served reliably organic fare.

And they truly like what they are served, judging from the fact that in its first four weeks, The Organic Coup accumulated more than 100 reviews on Yelp!

(One five-star giver said: “Fabulous new fast food style restaurant with a twist: the first USDA certified organic restaurant in the US. I class this as the In N Out of fast food joints – definitely got the right idea with a limited menu because what they do, they do REALLY well. For those that crave something cleaner, fresher, and more eco friendly, The Organic Coup is the answer.”)

Welton has ambitious plans – intending to  open 25 more restaurants over the next year or so.

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And while hers is the first USDA certified-organic restaurant, you can bet others will follow!

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