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    Packaging for WFM

    It’s embarrassing how long I’ve been working on our packaging for Whole Foods. I think ...

Gifts from Grafton

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We use beautiful Grafton Village Cheddar for all of our cheese at Clover. We’ve been talking to Grafton a lot lately. We’re working on a partnership where they would do a special run of Kosher cheese for us.

They brought Chris some samples of some of their new stuff. We tasted at the Food Dev Meeting on Tuesday. There was a sage cheese and this one, a smoked chile cheddar. It was awesome. I think we are all imagining some new seasonal sandwiches.

Want to taste what our suppliers are working on next? We have Food Development Meetings that are open to the public, every Tuesday at 3pm at the HUB.

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3pm special: Blue Oyster Mushrooms w/Rhubarb Aioli

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You may have heard about our visit to Rhode Island Mushroom Co. We’ve recently begun a partnership to buy mushrooms for the menu.

We’re battering and frying these beautiful Blue Oyster mushrooms and serving them with a rhubarb aioli. Catch them after 3pm at all the restaurants.

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Coffee and Donuts at the Longwood Medical Truck Friday 7/24

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We’re having a coffee tasting at the LMA truck tomorrow. Alissa is making donuts. Derek and Sarah of Speedwell Roasters are bringing some beautiful single origin Colombian coffee for you to taste.

There are only 9 tickets left, so sign up ahead of time to ensure there’s a donut and a cup of coffee with your name on it.

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Clover Kosher Update

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We’ve done few things in Clover’s history that have generated as much excitement as our recent move to Kosher certification.

Last week we invited you to see BLV, HSQ, and KND get Kashered. Soon we’ll have open Kashering of HFI and BUR. And then we’ll be 100% Kosher. It’s really exciting for us.

Let’s call this post a FAQ on Clover Kosher. I’m getting more questions than I can properly answer, and our employees are doing their best to field the questions, but some of these are really technical. One of our employees accidentally said we were KVH certified (which we’re not, KVH is a different Kosher certification than we have) and it caused a small flurry of notes, including some not super friendly public notices from KVH. I understand, there are strong emotions around Kosher certification and it’s important that information is clear (and correct!). Sorry about that. We’ve since corrected the error in communication.

What is your certification?

We are certified Kosher by Rabbi Dolinger

Why did Clover pursue Kosher certification?

I want Clover to be accessible to as many people as possible. I used to work with somebody who kept Kosher and was amazed how hard it was. I’m happy that we can make it easier for people to maintain their religious convictions. Minutes after our first Kashering post Tamara (my former colleague) wrote me a note. I couldn’t be happier to be able to take this step.

Are you (Ayr) Jewish?

I’m not.

Which locations are Kosher?

We’re working towards all locations, but haven’t finished the process as of today (7/21/15). Currently CloverHSQ, CloverKND, CloverHUB, CloverBLV, all Clover trucks in operation, and our commissary are certified. We’re working to get CloverHFI and CloverBUR added to that list.

Is your cheese kosher?

We’ve followed Rabbi Dolinger’s guidance and disposed of (donated) all non-kosher products before the Kashering (mostly vinegar). The cheese we use is from Grafton VT. It uses a vegetarian rennet. It is not certified Kosher, but Rabbi Dolinger is considering it Kosher. This is where I’m not an expert. I know some don’t consider any cheese Kosher unless it is certified, vegetarian rennet or no. Most Kosher cheese tastes horrible (sorry, but it’s true). So this is a challenging issue.

It’s a challenging issue and a really great opportunity for Clover and the broader community. We’re having conversations with Grafton and they are going to get certified Kosher cheese for us. They may move their entire operation to certified Kosher. I think that’s really cool and great for those in the Kosher community who love tasty cheese. And it could be great for Grafton, a small business that we love. I don’t think that change would happen without progressive and positive people trying to make change. We’re thankful to be working with Rabbi Dolinger.

What is Kashering?

It means the process of making something Kosher.

Is Kosher a physical thing? Or is it a religious thing?

I’m probably not the best to answer this one either, but from my observation it seems to be both. It’s definitely physical, Chris and I were up to midnight helping Kasher the HUB. But clearly it’s a religious process and definition.

Why is there so little Kosher certified anything in Boston?

Well… we tried for years to get Kosher certification. We hit dead ends. So for years, despite our best efforts, the only path we had to Kosher certification required we have a Rabbi on staff for all hours of operation at all locations. Since Kosher is a determination by a Rabbi there is variation in how different Rabbis determine what is Kosher. This requirement was so onerous for us that there was really no way we could possibly make it happen. I expect others have found the same thing.

I had a conversation with Grafton earlier today and they told me they have been interested in pursuing this in the past but that the certification process has been far to expensive.

So it’s a funny thing. It’s a religious process, but it’s also a business. And the cost and requirements are at the discretion of the Rabbi who stands to benefit from the business. In some ways that makes a ton of sense. But it obviously can lead to situations in which few if any can pursue the certification, regardless of their positive intentions.

Is it a pain to be Kosher? Isn’t that an operational headache?

There are requirements of us that have an impact on our operations. But none of these are things we wouldn’t want to be doing anyway.

For example we can’t have employee food in our kitchens. But guess what, Massachusetts Health Code requires the same thing!

The most unusual requirement for us is that if a pilot light goes out we have to have an observant Jew relight. And we have a special “olympic torch” (a fryer at HUB) that was lit by Rabbi Dolinger, we use that “torch” for all lighting.

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Clover Clean

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This is a message I shared with our employees the other day. I think it’s really important to our company and thought I would share it with all of you wholesale. This is the first step in a journey we’re going to take together as a company over the coming year. It’s the culmination of ideas I’ve been contemplating over the past year or so. And I think it might mark the first time I’ve been able to offer a clearly articulated answer to the question “what is Clover?”

Read on for full text… (more…)

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Manager learning

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About 3 years ago we started working in earnest on our training programs. At this point everybody in the company is trained (to their level) and we have a full time trainer role (Sara). If you’re curious about our materials stop by our “Careers” tab of the website and check out the “Teacher’s Training Guide.” We update it all the time and it’s what we use to train staff. We work to make that whole process really transparent.

The other week we had a special opportunity. Phil Terry, who I met at a Harvard function, offered to chat with our staff. He’s done a bunch of interesting things in the past and recently wrote a business book and is talking to companies (he was in town to talk to Fidelity). He offered to swing by Clover and talk with our managers. So we canceled our weekly manager meeting and tried something new. Everybody loved the change of pace and I think we all learned something new.

This picture is of Dave (VP Ops) talking to Phil after his presentation. Thanks Phil!

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Come see see us get kashered Thursday

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So a couple of weeks ago Rabbi Dolinger came up to the HUB to kasher that facility which included our commissary kitchen, our HUB restaurant, and all but 1 of our trucks (1 was at a shop being worked on).

He’s coming back this Thursday to kasher BLV, HSQ, and KND. Then we’ll have to get HFI and BUR and we’ll be 100%!!

If you want to check out what this looks like (it’s more than just pots full of boiling water):

Brookline Village – 6 PM
Kendall Square – 7:30 PM
Harvard Square – 9 PM.
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Packaging for WFM

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It’s embarrassing how long I’ve been working on our packaging for Whole Foods. I think we started thinking about this when they first approached us over 2 years ago. We’ve hired an outside firm, and I really didn’t like their process or output. We hired an in-house designer, that didn’t work out either. Lucia started trying some different things, including writing with white markers directly on plastic packages.

And now we’ve arrived at something I’m really excited about. It’s the collision of a certain Clover design aesthetic that you all know, aspirations to do packaged food different and better, and new technology that allows it all to happen.

On the aesthetic front we wanted the packaging to be about the food, in the same way we want our restaurants to be about the food and people. We found this really beautiful super clear plastic from a Canadian packaging company called IPL. It’s BPA-free and recyclable. We decided early on that compostable wouldn’t be valuable for this because most people don’t have access to commercial composting and most of the food will be eaten at home. So instead we’re buying these pretty expensive containers that look really beautiful and are super durable. We’re hoping people reuse a bunch at home then recycle when done.

We have some audacious goals. Our primary goal for our products at WFM is the same as that for our products at Clover restaurants: we want you to help meat eaters fall in love with vegetables. Currently most of the “fresh pack” items have a 10 day shelf life. That’s not going to work for us. We’re barely comfortable with 1 day. So we’re working really closely with WFM to make sure we get them deliveries daily and that we manage inventory to keep the shelf life really short. We’re probably going to go with a 48 hour sell-by date which keeps quality high but allows a single day overlap which will reduce waste. We change our menu daily at the restaurants because we know vegetables taste best when they are at the peak of their season. We’re going to carry this same approach to Whole Foods. This might not seem like a big deal, but the level of change we’re managing requires completely new tech systems. We can’t just develop 18 items (SKUs) and the print up FDA-labels for those and sell them for years. Instead we have to have a system that adapts and changes day to day.

So we started working with this company ItemPath a year or so ago. They have a cloud-based item tracking system that can print to wifi label printers. They’re the only one doing this that we know of in the world. They’re product is sort of beta, but we’ve been working closely with them and they’ve been making it work for us. We bought a high-resolution thermal printer from Zebra. And I ordered some die-cut thermal labels. Thermal printers activate chemistry that is embedded in the sticker paper and “turns on” the dye to make an image. There isn’t any transfer of ink. So it’s really stable in moisture, in the fridge, etc. And we can literally change the label design from one label to the next. Meaning we can include real-time information on the labels, like who made this batch, ingredient details specific to this item, stories we want to share, etc. It’s really amazing.

If you see me over at the HUB bent over a gigantic grey machine say hi and I’ll show you what we’re up to.

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Clover #7

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I’m working on our next Clover location. We had expected it would be Copley Sq. (you might have seen me mention something about that). We had a Letter of Intent (LOI) signed on a site there. A Letter of Intent is a non-binding agreement between a landlord and a tenant. Our Landlord approached us about that site and offered to build the space out for us and on good faith we did a ton of work to get ready for the site. Then it went on indefinite hold. So this site that I was planning to open in August is on hold.

So while we’re still hoping that the Copley site will happen, we’re not expecting it will be Clover #7. The next Clover restaurant will likely be downtown. We just signed a new LOI on a site at Federal St. near South Station. It’s really exciting. Our truck at Dewey Square was our first in Boston, and the first new food truck in Boston. And it’s a beautiful site.

Clover #8 is in the works. The picture above is from a site we were invited to look at in Longwood. We would totally love to be there and had made an offer on this site back a year ago. It’s still available, but it doesn’t look like the landlord wants Clover there, not sure why. We’ll keep looking. Retail real estate is a funny thing that is pretty invisible to most people. And honestly I haven’t talked about it openly as much as I’d like to for fear that Landlords would punish us for breaking the veil. But I’m inclined to be a bit more open and recently wrote about our DC search and I don’t think it hurt anybody. I’m going to try to start shedding more light on our searches here in Boston as well. Cross my fingers I don’t offend anybody powerful : )

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Pita baker hired

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Our oven has a shiny silver sticker that says UL on it, that stands for Underwriters Laboratory and means that we spent nearly 2 years getting this special oven certified to operate in Massachusetts.

We have a pita recipe. It uses some sour sponge alongside instant yeast. And it’s built around 30% fresh milled Massachusetts-grown flour. And it tastes better than you can imagine.

We’ve hired a pita baker.

We’ve selected a Pita artist. Congrats Fish and Marisa. (More on this later).

We’re expecting the pita in restaurants in about 2 weeks. Get excited.

(This picture was taken at our most recent board meeting. Chris is sharing breakfast sandwiches made with a prototype pita recipe.)

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