Higher prices coming soon


We’re going to change our prices Monday. I doubt many of you are psyched to read that. And it’s not exactly a fun thing to announce.

But this is part of what it means to be a healthy company. I think we’re taking a thoughtful approach and I hope you will all be supportive.

Here’s some of the thinking that’s gone into this change. We haven’t changed our sandwich price in almost 3 years and I think we’re due for a change.

The average is around 7%, not adjusted for mix. I believe the mix adjusted changes will be around 9% overall increase. Note that increase is not distributed evenly.  Sandwiches will change from $6.00 to $6.54. Trucks will start selling at same price as restaurants (currently trucks sandwich price ranges from $4.67 to $5.61). There will be changes to some other menu items (e.g., breakfast sandwich will increase from $3.00 to $3.74).

I’m timing this to come before HFI opens, because if I were a new customer of a new restaurant I really wouldn’t understand if prices changed a couple weeks in, even if they were 3 years over due…

I believe we will have trouble hitting our targets for profitability and sales improvement without a change to prices.

I believe our customers are willing to pay more for what we deliver.

I think that in the marketplace in general there is increased focus by customers on quality of delivered product/ experience and away from price concerns. That is to say I think people are more likely to “pay what it costs” for an experience they really want and less likely to skimp when it comes to a fantastic product or experience. Increasing prices will allow us to focus more resources on improving our product and experience.

We have adhered to a dollar-based pricing to date. I love the simplicity of this, and early on a big part of our message to customers was around price, we wanted everybody to know how affordable we were.

This pricing approach led to very infrequent but large price changes (3 year intervals, 10% + when they hit). I think that this approach will be hard to maintain over time.

I don’t want to ditch simplicity. I think it’s important to this community that is Clover, customer and employees alike. I propose we make the following changes:
– We focus on rounding post-tax (favorable to restaurants, means no coin changers, we piloted this on trucks last summer)
– We round to quarter (rounding to dollar too restrictive to pricing)
– We price by item (although groups of items, e.g., sandwiches, will still have consistent pricing)

I think we want to keep the pricing brand tight. While some competitors price across broad bands explicitly (Panera) and others do it implicitly (Chipotle, with add ons), I think we want to keep our sandwich and drink pricing tight for now. While others are trying to extract maximum value from customers with some low priced offerings for those that cannot afford more alongside very high priced offerings, I don’t think this is the model Clover should follow.

I think this for 2 reasons:
– We want customers to try to breadth of our menu, a goal that is not served by tiered pricing
– Our brand feels straightforward and simple to our customers, and I’d like to keep it that way.

It’s hard to know exactly, but I expect this price increase will increase our average ticket and sales by a factor similar to the mix-adjusted increase.

We expect our average ticket will still be well below Chipotle ($11.56 for 2013) but above our industry average (around $8). I think that’s a fine place for us to be at this point. I would like us to get to an average ticket that is 80% of Chipotle’s (which would put us at around $9.50 average at Chipotle’s current pricing). But I don’t want to do this overnight.

We’ve already seen 4 rounds of wage increases since the last price increase. I expect there will be more, and that’s one of the things we will fund with the increase.

There are additional resources/ infrastructure we are building that price increases will support.

We will be able to continue to improve our ingredient quality. Chris has made some amazing changes over the past few years and compared to 3 years ago when we made our last price increase our ingredient quality is much much better. We’re buying significantly more organic (was approx. 35%, now more like 45%) , and significantly more from local suppliers (est. from 60% to 80%).

So I hope you all still love us after this switch. I think we’ll be a better company come Monday, and I hope we continue to get better and better.


How many fields of parsnips do you want me to plant this year?


That was a question Michael Docter of Winter Moon Roots asked us when we were at the farm early this fall.

Now those parsnips have been harvested and brought to Clover. Our first buy was 1600lbs, and we’re placing another order this week!

If you’ve never had a Winter Moon parsnip, they are unlike anything you’ve ever had before. These are Spring parsnips, which means they’ve spent a winter under the snow. Their starches have converted to sugars, so they are really sweet and a little bit spicy. They are the first thing to come out of the ground after winter.


Parsnip Sandwich (Spring onion chow-chow, Grafton Cheddar, mayo, roasted warm parsnips, young spinach)
Parsnip Pear Soup
Parsnip Spinach Salad
Parsnip Lemonade (free samples anytime, trust us, this does taste good!)
Parsnip Soda (same deal, this actually works as a soda!)
Parsnip Fritters after 3pm


Team Leader pay increases to $12.50/ hour


I had the fun job of sending a note to employees this morning announcing a pay increase for the Team Leader position. We’re increasing starting pay for our Team Leaders from $11.25/ hour to $12.50/ hour. This change will go in effect for the next pay period. All existing Team Leaders earning less than $12.50/ hour will automatically get an increase. All new promotions and hires into the Team Leader role will start at $12.50/ hour. Everybody will still be eligible for future increases per our policies in the handbook.

I have to admit I had to have somebody else point out to me that we have increased all pay this year (Provisional, Team Member, Assistant Manager, General Manager) but had left the Team Leaders behind. Sorry all, that’s an oversight on my part.

And perhaps related to this oversight we’re short on Team Leaders as a company. Hopefully this change will help correct that.

For those of you unfamiliar with this role, team leaders are shift supervisors at Clover. Team Leaders either open or close a shift. It’s the first role at Clover that introduces expectations of leadership and can be a very exciting starting point for a longer career at Clover, or a great place to learn quickly while helping us build this company.

Thanks all. Sorry it took somebody else to point this out to me. Excited to be able to make this change.


Illegal pinball


The other day I posted about all of the things going on for Clover. A really long post.

Towards the end of that post was a mention of a pinball. Not less than 3 hours after I put that post on the website I got an email from Cambridge Licensing letting me know that due to an ordinance in Cambridge we might not be allowed to have pinball.

So crazy right? Crazy there’s an issue. And crazy they are reading this website to find that. We’re chasing around city agencies right now to get to the bottom of this. So far we’ve been told by zoning that it’s not their job, told by the head of City Inspectional Services that there’s no issue, told by licensing that they need us to get an entertainment license. So we’ve applied for an entertainment license.

I’d love to sit down with a City official and go through how absolutely crazy it’s been to try to work in this City. I’m reaching a boiling point. Feels like anything you want to do there’s an absurd obstacle put in your place.

We had a Cambridge Fire Sargent come into the HUB the other day harassing Chris about a bill that a plumber we work with hadn’t paid them, $500 or so. Chris asked if it was our bill and they said no, but they know we work with that plumber. They threatened to shut down the HUB and prevent HFI from opening if we get the plumber to pay up. No joke. No joke. In 2015. In an educated city.

We can’t apply for a beer license for HFI because the previous tenant has what Massachusetts calls a pocket license. That’s a license that’s not active (because he has no business anymore) but is “attached” to our address. Cambridge will not allow us to apply for a license until that pocket license is moved or revoked. The Cambridge ordinances say very clearly that pocket licenses should not be renewed, yet the License Commission renewed his license at the end of the year. He didn’t file for an extension of his license, but the Cambridge License Commission extended it anyway. And here we are, 1 year after we signed a LOI on the space, still unable to apply for a permit. It’s really incredible.

It’s taken a year, literally a year, to get our pita oven approved for use in Cambridge. If I’d opened it in New Hampshire I could have had bread baking last May. And I’m spending more money on consultants, engineers, etc. than the oven cost to be built in Israel and shipped across the ocean.

These are some larger stories, but there are dozens of smaller stories. And they’re hardly unique to Clover. It’s just an amazing pain to try to do business. These things seem broken. They just don’t seem to work they way they should. I would be shocked if there is somebody who lives in Cambridge who thinks it would be a bad thing for Clover to have a pinball machine in our restaurant. And I think most business people in the City feel there is nothing they can do. I feel that same way.

(Oh, and we will have pinball, legal or not. And yeah, that’s a cherry Twilight Zone machine there. I’ve been doing a lot of pinball research : )


More than eggs


Since the first truck I’ve thought it would be fun to be able to sell stuff other than sandwiches. We had a bunch of you ask for eggs and used to pack extra dozens of ChipNfarm eggs to sell at request. We also sold bags of pita.

Now, with Clover HFI, we’re building an enormous retail wall into the restaurant that will allow us to merchandise and sell all sorts of things. We’re planning a little book nook where we’ll sell our favorite food-related books and magazines. And we’re going to sell everything from Charlie Baer’s beans to an organic peanut butter we use for our sandwiches that we think is amazing.

Anything you’d like to request? Any obscure food magazines you would like easy access to?


Clover HFI video tour: 10 days out

I think I spent at least part of the night dreaming about this space. Yesterday I helped Justin move the very very heavy table into place. Everything feels like it’s fitting a bit better than I had planned. Justin’s team has been doing an amazing job with the details. Can’t wait to share it with you all.

Oh, and did I mention we’re hiring? All roles.


Clover curbside?


I snapped this picture up at Burlington the other day. This is our largest problem with the site. It wasn’t this bad before we moved in, but the place becomes a parking lot in the middle of the day.

Think we should try Clover curbside ordering/ delivery? I’m only half joking. Any other idea?

In the meantime we’ll do everything we can to make your traffic experience a worthwhile exercise. And if you’re able to come a few minutes before or after lunch (or dinner/ breakfast/ or weekends) you can completely avoid this situation.


What’s the craziest thing you’ve used your lab notebook for?


I found this in my basement the other day. We’re playing with ideas to improve our training, especially for managers. That’s because we’re on a hiring binge right now. (If you think you’d be a great fit please apply now).

So one of the things we talked about was bringing the “lab” aspect of what we’re doing to life for new managers, many of whom have never really run experiments. I thought I remembered a lab notebook from early days and here it is. Ground zero Clover.

This one literally has recipes, data from early operations (e.g., how many sandwiches we sold in a day), customer names and email addresses for early customer research, ideas for operational improvements, flow charts and floorpans.

I used these for everything when I worked with a lab coat every day. Do you guys still use stuff like this? Has it gone electronic?

So we’re thinking to hand a Clover-branded notebook to all new managers and explain how to run (and record) experiments. I think it’s going to be amazing.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done with a lab notebook?



Sharper Clover


That’s Adam Simha. He makes these amazing knives in North Cambridge. They’re used by some of the best chefs in the world. Real works of art and love.

When I started Clover I knew nothing about knives. Over the years they’ve fallen into the same place in my heart reserved for motorcycles and cars and surfing. Using a beautiful knife you feel connected to the world around you and so happy.

I’ve admired Adam’s work for a long time and when we decided to get serious about making a Clover chef’s knife we reached out to see if he’d help us design them. There on the cutting board are 2 sample designs he made for us. We’re going to work with the shape that allows rocking. The blade will be thin and tall. The handle will be grippy when wet. It will be ridiculously sharp and demand careful treatment. We’re going to give these to employees when they pass our 2nd tier of knife testing. I can’t wait. It’s really exciting.

We’re thinking to sell a limited number to the public. Keep your eye out.


Hiring Fair: Tuesday, April 7, 6pm-8pm, CloverHSQ


Want to wield a knife or wear the blue apron? Clover is holding a hiring fair this Tuesday, 6pm-8pm at CloverHSQ (7 Holyoke Street, a 3 minute walk from the Harvard MBTA stop.)

Open to everybody. If you know someone who would be great, pass on this post to them.