May 22, 2020

Clover getting ready to re-open


We’re not going anywhere.

But there are a lot of things that will have to change to make that statement fact. I thought I’d share with you all what I see in our future, and how it will impact the full community that has allowed Clover Food Lab to exist, our customers, our employees, our suppliers, our financial backers, and our landlords.

I don’t have a crystal ball. But I’ve been listening, processing, and imagining the future since early January. Here I will share my best current thinking. I’m not an epidemiologist. These are my clearest thoughts based on what I understand about my business and the future we face. I’m sure I’ll look back in a few months and some of this will seem like clairvoyance, while other items might seem silly. I guess that’s the risk of imagining the future…


Our mission hasn’t changed. We want to help meat lovers fall in love with vegetables.

Today we face the global challenge of COVID-19. This might not be fun to hear, but it’s likely we will face other pandemics in the future, perhaps more deadly than this one that is here today. And we know with certainty that we’re on a path to a much larger existential threat. If we don’t change our daily activities we will undoubtedly end up in a hotter world. By almost all predictions the impact of that, while in the future and spread over more time, will dwarf the impact we are facing today with COVID.

Clover was started to help people make the change to a more sustainable diet exciting, nutritious, fun, and delicious.

Expect Clover to approach re-opening with caution. We’re not going to fire up our restaurants until we feel in our hearts that it’s the right timing for the safety of our customers and our employees. We will rely on facts, not hype. This might mean you have to wait longer than you’d like for a Clover breakfast sandwich and a George Howell coffee.


We’ve been a restaurant company for almost 8 years (for our first 4 years we had fun as a “food truck” company).

On March 9th 2020 we became a food company.

The Chickpea Fritter will return. Our restaurants will return and expand. But in addition to that we’ll be finding ways to impact food systems and customers and build revenues in other avenues.

Expect Clover cookbooks and media content

Expect the Clover Farm Share program to expand and become more important than ever

Expect to be cooking at home from Clover recipes, using ingredients we’ve helped connect you to

Expect Clover at your home in the form of pantry boxes etc.

Expect to find Clover helping fight food insecurity in our communities

Expect to find Clover at your favorite grocery or convenience store


Without the wonderful folks who work at Clover we wouldn’t exist. This company has been built by hard work and personal sacrifice that has come from many people.

We’re going to make decisions about the months ahead with their interests at the fore. I can speak to how we’ll approach those decisions, but it’s difficult right now to project what all of those decisions will look like.

Clover Guides — we love you and remain committed to the beautiful interactions you bring to our community. We’ll have to figure out what your role looks like going forward. But your talents are still very important to us, even if orders are moving digital.

Expect Clover to return to business with industry-leading pay rates (as we provided in the past).

Expect Clover to find a way to collect tips, even though most customers will not be eating in our restaurants for while.

Expect Clover to be unable to hire all 300-odd employees back day 1. Our return to business will be staggered over time.


People haven’t stopped eating. What we eat and where it comes from has changed, and likely will never return to the way it once way pre-COVID.

Pre-COVID Americans ate approximately 50% of meals out of home. I expect we will return to that number, and even surpass it at some point in the future. But in the meantime we’re all eating at home.

Expect Clover to offer pantry boxes that will allow you to enjoy the food you love from Clover, at a very economically compelling price point. We know many of our customers were brown baggers pre-COVID, and we’ve always taken pride in that. Let’s all rally around home cooking. I’ve started an online cooking show meant for all of you: and

Expect Clover to offer the meals you love. But you may find restrictions that weren’t there before, e.g., fewer items on the menu, limited hours of pick-up, etc. We’re moving away from the on-demand food world we were starting to expect. I for one think that’s great.

Expect to find Clover items in grocery and convenience store channels. No, you’re not going to get a Chickpea Fritter in the freezer section, but we would love to sell our bread, fresh hummus, and other items to you in the places you shop.


We may not be able to maintain our commitment to 100% compostable packaging. That commitment made sense when we collected all of the waste. But most of our customers don’t have access to commercial composting facilities, so I’m not sure this will be the best choice when 100% of our food waste is being dealt with outside of our restaurant walls. We’ll be doing our best to use 100% post consumer recycled materials, but from past experience that’s been hard to get for every product.


I expect prices will go up, not just at Clover but throughout our industry. That might sound funny to you. But I don’t see another way that the economics work.

Landlords and rents

We spend a lot of money building restaurants so that we can sell food. At Clover pre-COVID our sales were 60% take-out, 39% eat in, <1% delivery. Opening restaurants is our primary method of growing our company scale and impact.

Most restaurants spend between 10-20% of total sales in occupancy costs. Those costs are fixed. So if our sales decline substantially that percentage quickly overwhelms our business.

We cannot pay rent for periods where we could not make sales

We need to move to percentage rents

We need a period to restore business

None of our landlords will like any of these changes. But not making these changes means marching towards bankruptcy, which is in nobody’s best interest.


I expect we will open up delivery. But I think we will price the cost of delivery into that service. It’s now widely known that delivery companies such as DoorDash, UberEats, Caviar, and others charge restaurants 30-35% of the sale price of the item for the delivery service.

Restauranteurs looked the other way when delivery was a small percentage of total sales. But if we’re aiming to sell a large amount of our food via delivery we won’t survive with that cost structure.

Expect to receive a “30% discount” to pick up your food at one of our stores. I don’t really mean that prices can magically decline. But prices will go up for delivery. And relatively speaking they will be lower for pick-up.


Our suppliers will do best when we’re selling the most food. In the meantime we have been and will continue to spend major effort connecting our customers to our suppliers directly. Please support them. They help make our business possible, but they also help make our communities more healthy and more fun and they enrich the soils of New England.

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!)