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

January 26, 2023
The Pizza Friday Box gave us an idea: calzones! Ayr has been making these at his house and texting us photos. They’re big and saucy and so good. Basically a stuffed pizza/turnover situation with origins in 17th century Naples.
January 18, 2023
As you might know, we love feedback. Survey Day is a tradition that harkens back to the first days of the food truck, over 10 years ago. If you got a card in line today at Clover, or if you ordered on the app today, click here to take the survey. Huge thanks for helping us improve.
January 13, 2023
Thanks all who joined for the first public food dev meeting after Covid. Phil did a great job pulling it all together. If you’re a customer, farmer, vendor (or Clover staff member) reading this, you are invited to Food Dev! These happen Thursday afternoons at the HUB and they’re where all new food ideas are born. Just make sure to sign up – spots are limited.
January 5, 2023
House-made carrot lox, hearty vegetable stews with bread and pickles, Tunisian breakfast bowls, a pizza party kit, and a dream of snow, all in one box. Our Snowed In Box is back. This was Greg’s idea back in 2020. He thought it would be cool to make a box that was equally whether eaten after snowboarding or cozied up on the couch watching a movie.
December 21, 2022
We’ve been getting a lot of requests for the ability to gift a friend Clover Meal Boxes. After a lot of late night tech sessions, we have a way to do this! Yay! I’ve been looking and seeing a few of you have started to discover this feature and are starting to gift away. So cool to see.
December 16, 2022
If you’re a weekly meal box subscriber, you may have noticed way fewer plastic containers in your deliveries recently.When we started the program, we were in the pandemic, new to this whole home delivery thing, and a big concern was making sure that nothing spilled inside the boxes. So we relied on post-consumer recycled containers (aka plastic deli containers) for a lot of the items.
December 13, 2022
We’ve been getting back into the merch game. First up: squash shirts. I thought it would be fun to celebrate the diversity of the squash world. Although butternut is probably the squash you see most in the grocery store, there are actually over 100 types of squash, all with their own patterns, colors, and textures.
December 6, 2022
The Bridgewater is back!! This is probably the most requested sandwich on our menu. Michelle who runs our social media says she reliably gets one message per week asking when it will return. In 2015, Paul and Bryan came up with this sandwich as an homage to the jalapeño poppers at The Charlie Horse, a now-closed tavern in their hometown of Bridgewater, MA.
December 6, 2022
I love the holidays. I love the lights, I love the traditions, I love ornaments and pine needles all over the floor.  I love the movies (“Muppet Christmas Carol”) and the books (“A Child’s Christmas in Wales.”) I love the good songs, I love the schlocky songs (if you’ve never heard “Suzy Snowflake” or “Dominic the Donkey”, stop reading right now and click through.)
December 1, 2022
It was inevitable. Our meal box program had to find its way into restaurants at some point. A bunch of you have been asking if we can sell “on demand” meal boxes in our restaurants – for those times when you have last-minute dinner guests or forgot to subscribe by the deadline. So we’ve been easing into the process of combining one part of Clover with another.
November 28, 2022
Brussels Sprouts are extra sweet this time of year, and King Brussels, in his infinite wisdom, has cooked up a Brussels Week in our meal boxes. Every single subscription box will contain a recipe inspired by brussels! This is the first time we’ve explored a seasonal theme across our entire lineup and we’re excited to dive in.
November 19, 2022
This was Jane’s last week at Clover. We’re wishing her the best in her next steps (but also not so secretly hoping she comes back!)