July 2, 2020

A new Clover: Part 1 of many

I’m going to start writing about some of the nitty gritty of re-opening. I’ll include plans in case anyone is doing the same thing and wants to use our plans.

First thing I’ve realized? It’s not re-opening at all. Instead we’re launching something new, shooting from the hip, without good guidance or experience. This is true for all restaurateurs right now.

  • Physical layout — changed
  • Customer flow — changed
  • Menu presentations — changed
  • Menu composition — changed
  • Tech tools — changed
  • Use of tech — changed
  • Staffing schedule — changed
  • Training and staff expectations — changed
  • Regulations — changed
  • Communicating to customers — changed

I realized this 2 weeks ago. “Re-opening” would be easy. We know how to do this. We’re professionals. But that’s not what we’re being asked to do.

We re-opened 3 restaurants last Monday (Burlington, East Cambridge, Kendall Square). We’re opening 2 more this week (Whole Foods Sudbury and Westford). And then 4 more this coming Monday (Longwood Medical Area, Copley Square, Central Square, Harvard Square).

We designed a customer flow that we think will minimize contact. I think we’ve done it really well. I don’t know a better example. And if you do please share.

We opted to open for pick-up only initially. No outdoor seating. Definitely no indoor seating. No delivery (more on that one in a future post).

There are 2 paths to pick-up your food:

(1) You arrive, stay in your car, on your bike, with your stroller etc. Hit a button on the app that says “I’m here.” And we bring your food out and place it in your trunk. No contact. Fast.

(2) You arrive. Our app tells you that your food is ready. 1 at a time you enter a little vestibule in our restaurant and pick up the bag with your name on it and you’re off. No contact. Fast

We decided against an outdoor table for a few reasons. Chief among them:

  • It will rain or get windy and eventually snow and cold
  • We don’t have as much control of a surface outside of our restaurant

Our guiding approach has been to (a) eliminate person-to-person contact where possible, and (b) when there is contact to create as many barriers to disease transfer as possible.

So we build a slick plexiglass “vestibule” inside of our restaurant door. This allows guests to come in and pick up their food. Facemasks on. Smiling underneath. And our staff are on the other side of the Plexiglas. Smiling underneath. We have 2 layers of protection: the masks, and the Plexiglas.

I called Justin and “designed” a set-up on the fly. Here’s how we did it:

  • 1/2 inch Acrylic — it’s strong enough to support its own weight, doesn’t bend
  • We’re making use of our “stadiums” that we’ve had for a while to support pick-up orders. Super clean-able. Easy to understand for customers. Easy for our staff.
  • We used a standard stainless prep table to support the “stadium.” They are on wheels. We have them at every restaurant. And they are super cleanable sanitary surfaces.
  • I used corrugated plastic sheets that I bought at Home Depot to create a tidy “front” for the tables (see below)

Building a simple “face” out of corrugated plastic to make a standard pre-table into a customer-facing handoff table

Step 1: Cut the plastic

Home Depot sold a simple tool made to cut corrugated plastic. It was cheap, maybe $10. The sheets of plastic come in 4’x8′. I chose white because this is Clover.
For the cuts that were perpendicular to the corrugated channels I used a T that was sold for use in cutting Drywall. I had one but they aren’t expensive and help you get a nice straight line.

Step 2: Use zip-ties to attach the plastic

I used a simple utility knife to cut slits in the Passaic where I wanted to pass a zip tie.

The zip-tie goes through the holes and then attaches on the other side. The look is simple and clean. Tip: if your zip ties are too short you can connect one to a second to make a double long zip tie.

Final result:

Relatively cheap (super important for restauranteurs right now). Very little work required (also important). And it’s cleanable, sanitary, and pretty sharp looking:

Here is a picture of the entire set-up including the plexiglass:

Just kidding! That’s a Wingstop. Yikes!

That image above is NOT a Clover restaurant. It’s a funny pic from a Wingstop that an employee shared with me.

Here’s the Clover final set-up:

Recent Posts

February 15, 2024
We have a new sandwich out everywhere today. It’s a take on a Buffalo Chicken sandwich. We use celery root, aka celeriac, this nobbly, gnarled joy of a winter vegetable. We cut it into planks, batter it with panko, and fry it. We’re getting ours from Norwich Meadows Farm, a farm in NY state that’s known for creating really flavorful organic veggies using a cool irrigation system. 
February 7, 2024
For the week of Valentine’s Day, we’ll be delivering these Making Whoopie (Pie) Kits 😉. They have everything you need to make whoopie pies — more specifically, Chris’ favorite oatmeal cakes with beet buttercream frosting. You’ll also get a scoop for making the perfect size pie, and a roll of sugar cookie dough for more sweet fun.
January 18, 2024
Pull out your plaid and cue up the bagpipes because it’s Clover’s third-ever celebration of Burns Night, an introduction to Scottish food/drink/music/poetry and a reason to raise a glass during this dark and cold month! You may be asking yourself, what is Burns Night?
January 17, 2024
Chances are you’ve tried the new Clover Bowls. We’ve been running them since the Spring. After a few tweaks, we landed on a roster we love: the Mediterranean Bowl, the Verde Rice and Bean Bowl, and a Rotating Seasonal Bowl. The bowls have transformed our menu – Josh, a Kendall customer, recently wrote to us, “The beet poke bowl is the best new item I’ve tried at Clover in years. I love the freshness and bite of the mix of flavors.” We’ve also heard some very good suggestions about how to make them even better…
January 3, 2024
Meet the Veggie Monster Meal Box! Some of you are subscribers to our Friday newsletter about plant-based cooking. Now… that newsletter has spawned a meal box! Pack your fridge with everything you need to make an entire week of vegetable-based meals. Think hearty pot pies; sweet and spicy maple-roasted squash tacos; bowls packed with…
December 20, 2023
New Year’s Eve is no time to be buried in the kitchen, so we pack our NYE Box with Clover fan favorites that come together fast and encourage a night of Finger-Food Feasting. Can you think of anything better than digging into bubbling hot Brussels Sprout Cheese dip on a freezing cold Boston night? Or scooping up our bright nutty Romesco sauce as the clock ticks to midnight?  And our breakthrough Carrot Lox (probably the best thing to come out of our food dev in 2023) will have you resolving to spare more salmon in the year ahead.
December 19, 2023
Stop by Clover today (Tuesday 12/19) and when you order a Brussels Sandwich on the app, we’ll give you $1 off our new chocolate chip cookie! It’s a gift from King Brussels, on his final day in the Clover Kingdom. Use this link to get yours!
December 16, 2023
Are you looking for the perfect gift for a friend who loves Clover? We have online gift cards! You can specify a time that you’d like the card to hit their inbox – and there’s a new feature that lets multiple people pool money to send a card to one person. Pretty cool!  
December 10, 2023
What would we serve if we had all of you over for Christmas dinner? This (epic) box, available only for Christmas, is an homage to the holiday traditions of our Clover staff. And like all Clover boxes, it supports our hardworking Massachusetts farmers, millers, bakers, and cheesemakers. This box is designed to feed you and keep you properly festive throughout a week with different meals/snacks, and can also be laid out all together on a holiday table as one big feast.
December 4, 2023
These sweet potato latkes date back to early days on the Clover food truck. They’re so yummy and the sweet potatoes lend them such a fun golden color. They’re probably the most popular item in our Hanukkah Meal Box, which you can get delivered on December 7th. Inside the box you’ll find: 
November 29, 2023
I’m writing to share some news: we’ve decided to permanently close CloverROW, our outpost in the Assembly Row neighborhood of Somerville. The closure of this restaurant is part of the whole company’s focus on reaching financial sustainability and positioning us for future growth. These decisions are really hard, but they’re necessary steps for us to simplify Clover. And, happily, all the amazing staff at CloverROW, including the manager Joe, will be able to move into other Clover restaurants. The math is straightforward…
November 21, 2023
Hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving. We will be closed Thursday 11/23 at all locations. For our kitchen team, it will be a good chance to rest after prepping a ton of Brussels casseroles for our Thanksgiving Box : ) As for the days surrounding Thanksgiving, we’ll be open normal hours, except for CloverFIN (Financial District) and CloverHSC (Harvard Science Center) which will be closed tomorrow and Friday. CloverHSQ (Harvard Square) will be closing early (at 8pm) tomorrow.