Movie night is tonight!


The speakers are rented, the picnic boxes neatly folded, and we are praying for not-rain. And I have to say this is my favorite poster I’ve ever designed (shoutout to Drew who had the pleasure of photoshopping our truck onto a Delorean.)

Back to the Future screens tonight at 8pm at Clover on the Greenway. If you managed to snag a picnic box, arrive between 7:30 and 7:45 to pick them up.

If not, there are still a few left:


Strong enough for a man, made for a woman

gaucScreen Shot 2016-07-26 at 10.00.30 AM

The other night I woke up with this ad pitch in my head: “Strong enough for a man, made for a woman.” A child of the 80s I don’t know how many times I had this drilled into my mind. And it was the middle of the night, at age 38, that I first realized it’s a nasty message for women. Right, the implication is that men are strong and women are not.

I’ve always been sensitive to this sort of thing. I hate bullies more than anything. The only run-ins I had as a kid were with bullies. I had no tolerance for it. I still feel the same way. Very strongly. And I think a bunch of racism and sexism looks sort of like subtle bullying. But I’m still discovering things I might have passed by without notice in the past.

This stuff can be so tricky. And now I’m responsible for this complex organization, and I have 2 daughters, and I’m waking up in the middle of the night with a stupid deodorant jingle in my head. “Strong enough for a man…”

And then, in some bizarre coincidence, I came across 2 phrases yesterday when researching order ahead apps with Lucia. The first I admittedly missed, “tap that app.” Lucia pointed it out. And then we laughed about whether it was on purpose. Of course it was. And then I started thinking “strong enough for a man…” Tap that app. It’s sort of aggressive, isn’t it? I can’t imagine Sweetgreen would put up a phrase that played on dominating a man sexually in the same way. Why? Because men would find it offensive, and probably be annoyed about it/ put off.

And then, not 5 minutes later, we came across a slightly more tame one: “Work that Hass.” Slightly more tame, more playful, less aggressive. But really? Would they put up a phrase that would message to men in the same way?

Running a company I’m totally aware these decisions probably weren’t made by senior leaders. But aren’t they responsible anyway? And clearly, neither was intended in any negative way. And intention counts a lot. But “strong enough for a man…” wasn’t intended to be negative either, was it?

How do I build a company that has no room for this kind of thing? Anybody out there who works on this sort of thing and knows more about it than me?


Too much noise


I have a new urgent issue: our new restaurants are too loud. That is a screen shot above, we’re clocking in at about 76 dB. Too loud. But it gets even higher, up to 80 dB. Just an iPhone app, so I don’t know that it’s perfectly accurate, but in any case it’s too loud. Sorry everybody! We didn’t intend for this and we recognize it’s a problem. We’ll try to address it as fast as we can.

I think this is a combination of factors, not least of which is the number of people in the restaurants. Right now I’m in LMA and I can count 68 people in here. And it’s 1:30pm, a bit post lunch rush.

But it’s also due to hard surfaces. The new restaurants have a ton of glass. LMA has glass walls on both sides of the restaurant.

The new restaurants are also a bit larger than what we’ve done in the past. LMA and FIN clock in over 2,000 sq. ft, where KND, HFI, DTX are 1,500 sq ft.

We’re left with restaurants that sound great in the early morning and mid-afternoon, when there aren’t as many customers. But we want the restaurants to be great when packed, not just when empty!

We’re going to step through a series of measures aimed at knocking down the loudness. I’m expecting the first of those measures to be in place by the end of this week. We’ll keep going until we get to a level that is comfortable. I think this is critical not just for our customers but for our employees. It’s not fun to work in an environment that’s clocking in close to 80 dB. So sorry! We’re working to fix.


Driving 4 monitors with a mac


I had no idea what I was getting into. Sounds simple right: drive 4 displays with one computer. Shouldn’t be too tough, right?

Warning: this post is going to be a bit more instructional than I’ve done in a while. But this was a super annoying problem for me to solve and I think I might be able to help others get to a solution faster (or avoid the issue altogether).

We have a big wall in this new office at CloverFIN. Since we’re zero paper as a company it’s important that when we meet we have a computer hooked up to a display that we can all use. Given the space of the wall there was no way to get a single screen large enough. A projector wouldn’t work given the ambient light (already tripped down that path in the past). So I spec’d 4 Sony displays, which fill the space perfectly and weren’t very expensive.

We run on Macs as a company. So I looked up apple’s specs. The MacPro can run 3 displays. Not quite what I needed…

I reached out to the Apple Business Team. They put me in touch with some 3rd party consultant. They told me 3 displays. I’d need an external video card adapter to drive a 4th. OK…

I found splitters, but they are really expensive and low res. I found a thunderbolt external video card and ended up buying that. It took me an embarrassing amount of time to instal drivers, get the right cables, etc. But it’s all up and running now. Here’s the rig:

  • 4 Sony 4k screens (Best Buy)
  • 1 Apple Mac Pro (refurb, base specs, Amazon)
  • BizonBox2 (Bizon)
  • Graphics card, NVIDIA GTX970 (Bison)
  • 1 HDMI to HDMI cable (Amazon)
  • 1 HDMI to Mini displayport/ thunderbolt cable (Amazon)
  • 1 HDMI to Displayport cable (Amazon)
  • 1 HDMI to DVI cable (Amazon)
  • (no joke, that’s how you pull this off. Crazy, right?)

Lucia thought this wasn’t such a good idea



She was too polite to say it was awful.

People walking down the street are trying to open the door to this room. Then turning dashing across the street when it doesn’t open. I don’t know, maybe they’re trying to join me but then felt embarrassed or confused.

Customers ordering lunch are scratching their heads. Stacia, leading our communications at CloverFIN, is doing her best to explain things.

Customers are knocking on the glass and waving. The other day one just walked through the door that says “Ayr’s Office” and sat down at the conference table and made a phone call.

In the face of all this confusion I’m convinced this is one of the most important things I’ve done at Clover. I think 5 years from now this will be a totally iconic part of Clover. I think we’ll look back and see this as one of the most important decisions we made in this era of Clover’s evolution.

It’s just a room, with glass walls.

It’s made bold by the fact that practically all business is done behind closed doors. That’s how we did things for the past 5 years. We built restaurants with zero back of house, kitchens more transparent than anything in our industry. We built a commissary that invited customers to sit and take lunch surrounded by bread baking and hummus blending. We even opened up our food development process, with a weekly meeting that customers and staff are invited to attend. But we built the business in a windowless room with a door that kept others from looking in.

I saw this as a problem years ago but couldn’t figure out what to do about it until recently. Now we have a conference room that’s right in the middle of our largest restaurant. It’s awesome. Most people don’t get to see what it takes to build a business. For staff, customers, for many people it’s a mystery what I spend my time doing. It’s not clear what a Director of HR actually does each day.

So this my bold idea: do business in the open. Let everybody see. You’ll see ideas that don’t ever work out. You’ll see a sketch for the operational impact of our order ahead roll out. You’ll see a model for a restaurant we’re going to build in 18 months. You’ll see us thinking through our uniform strategy. It’s like a live real life version of what happens here when our blog is at its best.

We did install curtains. We had a board meeting in this room this past Thursday. And I wasn’t sure the board members would feel comfortable being on display. They all got it. Ron said he hoped we wouldn’t draw the shades. We didn’t. And we had our board meeting in the open. Welcome to the new Clover.



LMA is real


This is something like 6 years in the making. We’ve been wanting to open a restaurant in Longwood for a long time. Yesterday we had our “pay what you want” day. This morning we’re open for real. 7am – midnight. We close a bit earlier on Sundays.

Smoothest open to date. Well… except for the fact that we were welding at 6am on opening morning : ( But wouldn’t feel like a proper open without some sort of last minute drama.

Really awesome to see and be a part of this.

Customers here are amazing. So sincere and kind. It feels really great. Thanks Longwood for welcoming us!


Hello Longwood Medical


I’m typing this in the middle of our giant Day 1 lunch rush at LMA. It’s only 12:36 and it’s pretty crazy, definitely our biggest opening yet. Hope everyone isn’t waiting too long.

I wanted to make sure everyone in line knows that we’re doing some special post-open events to welcome different groups in the area. You bring your ID, we make you breakfast or a snack. You’ve got to RSVP to ensure we’ll have food and drinks for you and there are only 50 spots for each event. Spread the word Longwood Medical! We are so excited to be here.











CloverLMA (the restaurant) opens tomorrow 7/21, 11am-2pm


We’re opening tomorrow at 360 Longwood Avenue! Come see us from 11am-2pm for Pay What You Want Day. We’ll have a full lunch menu and all proceeds will go to The Food Project.

We’ll open for regular business hours the following day, 7am-11am.


Clover web redesign, 2 of many

Sketch Copy 11

This is the second of a series of posts I plan to write giving you a front seat to our website re-design process. The other week I shared my rough sketches and aspirations.

A few weeks ago I reached out to 3 designers who seemed qualified. I think they were selected from a list that Ethan shared with me. Of those 3 we narrowed it down to 1. Then I got cold feet and we decided to put on hold. Then I changed my mind and we decided to go forward.

The engineer we were going to work with had a designer that wasn’t available. We decided to find our own designer. I was connected by Ryan of Loyal Supply to Mike at Upstatement, a firm in town. They do amazing work, but we’re tiny and can’t afford them. But Mike referred me to Nathan, who works for him, and Nathan has taken this on as a freelance project.

So here are the sketches Nathan put together to start the conversation. These came after our first sit down.

What do you think? (attachments after the break)



This is what food should do to people


6 weeks ago I was standing on the sidewalk taking in our new restaurant. It was wrapped in white plastic. Nothing identifiable as Clover. I was trying to use my imagination, and avoid bumping into the stream of foot traffic.

One guy stopped and asked if we knew what was going to be there. I have “Ted” written down. Is that right?

I said Clover and he spontaneously threw his stuff on the ground. Boom. Julia (manages construction) jumped a bit.  Then this customer threw up his hands. Shouted: “I’ve been wanting Clover here for years! And now I’m moving!”

Then he wanted a picture with me. (click through to see the full series of pictures.)

For those of you who didn’t move, we’re opening next week. CloverLMA opens 7/21/16

What an awesome thing this is to be doing. I meet a stranger because I’m looking at a building. And he shouts and throws his stuff on the ground. Because of a restaurant. I think this is what food should do to people. We should be super passionate about what we eat.

Ted, I hope I got your name right. You made our day. If I remember you said you’re going to Providence (?). We’ll probably get there right after you move : (