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

June 7, 2023
For those of you who know, you are probably already clicking into this post to see exactly when you will need to get to Clover. For those who are new to Clover, the Nashville Hot Mushroom is a big deal. It’s an homage to the hot chicken at Prince’s in Nashville, which has its own dramatic origin story. Our version gives you a LITTLE relief from the spice with…
June 7, 2023
Joe (SCL, customer service rep, and our resident coffee fiend) just messaged me that the new Little Wolf coffee was blowing his mind. So I figured I would let all of you know too so you can try it! The coffee is called Laayoo – it’s named after a tree indigenous to the region of Ethiopia where it’s grown by smallholder farmers. Joe tasted notes of Earl Gray tea and funky/smoky/pu-erh tea. Little Wolf folks said it reminded them of rosè wine. So that makes me curious – what do you taste?
May 24, 2023
I recently learned that garlic has 4 stages that it goes through on its journey to become the cured stuff you’re probably used to seeing. This year I learned about Green Garlic. It’s the mild, sweet, un-cured bulb, plus the fresh green shoots. We got our hands on a super limited crop from Red Fire out in Granby, and so we decided to see if we could incorporate it into every single different type of box we make next week…
May 23, 2023
We’ve intentionally steered clear of bowls for a long time. If you see Ayr tomorrow, ask him why : ) Tomorrow (5/24) we’re starting a 2-week test of bowls at CloverNTV, our restaurant in Newtonville. If it goes well, this could represent the beginning of one of the bigger changes our menu has EVER seen. We’re hoping we’ve cracked the code to bowls that are seasonal, carefully-composed, easy to carry, and craveable – all the things we love about bowls, and none of the things we don’t.
May 18, 2023
I used to eat Cheesy Grits almost every morning, and if you were eating with us around 2017, I bet you did too. We took our Plimoth-ground-grits off the menu for a little while, but now they’re back at all locations (except for the HUB for the time being). Stop in for breakfast during the next 2 weeks – we’re aiming for these to be hot and ready at 8am and we’ll be selling them til they’re out. The staff has been waking up extra early and adding a lot of extra whisking to their mornings, so we’d love to hear what you think. If you’ve never had our Cheesy Grits before, here are some things you should know….
May 16, 2023
What is Chris eating? When we toured the field at Siena, the crew was planting dahlia tubers. They get planted in warm soil, will grow all summer and will be ready for harvest in the fall. They reminded us of sunchokes, so we got to talking about whether the tubers are edible and it turns out they are! Are they delicious?
May 15, 2023
Do you want a beautiful box of produce for a fraction of what you’d pay in the grocery store? Do you want to invest in a farm’s success and be with them throughout the harvest season? Do you think you hate eggplants but you’ve just never had a good one? It might be time to look into a CSA (or farmshare).
May 5, 2023
I remember exactly the moment we started celebrating May the 4th (“May the Force” be with you). We were on a planning call about meal boxes and we were talking about how we were going to launch our Taco Tuesday program on Cinco de Mayo (May the 5th). Chris accidentally said “May the 4th” and Ayr said, “May the 4th! We should do a Star Wars Box!”
April 24, 2023
If you’ve been reading for a while you probably know we hate waste. Most of the time, minimizing waste is pretty unglamorous, but every once in a while our mission to reduce waste takes us to some very cool places. I look after Clover’s grocery marketplaces (including our Assembly Row grocery store). A few months ago I noticed that the marketplaces were going through a lot of our paper bags. They’re compostable, which is great. But I think the best bag is one you can use over and over again.
April 22, 2023
Few people know that Clover is environmental activism. This is by design.  And it works. We do these customer surveys and see that 9 out of 10 Clover customers are NOT vegetarian. Yet I’m constantly troubled by conflicting feelings about the approach we’ve taken.
April 10, 2023
Over the next 3 weeks, on a rolling schedule, most Clovers are going to be giving out a free hot or cold George Howell Montecarlos coffee to anyone who stops in between opening and 11 am. No strings— we just want to see you all and talk about coffee!! George Howell’s Montecarlos is a single-origin coffee we love for our pour-overs…
March 30, 2023
Each year, early spring is a busy time at the Clover kitchen because we have 2 of our tastiest boxes, usually back-to-back. For the Passover box, a lot of care goes into the kashering of the kitchen, with Rabbi Dolinger coming in to ensure the box is totally Kosher for Passover via Lighthouse Kosher.