Our food philosophy is driven by simplicity. I’d rather have you shocked by how delicious our turnip soup tastes than impress you with an exotic ingredient or fancy technique or flowery menu description.

We try to keep everything very simple, but very careful. If you eat with us for breakfast you know that we’re making the soup or salads in the morning and prepping for lunch. We don’t make ketchup. We don’t make Mayonnaise. We make just about everything else every day.

This is Fast Food. We’re obsessed with speed and constantly time ourselves. Our average serve times are around 3.5 minutes, which makes us a little slower than McDonald’s.

Many of you have been asking for more detail about the menu, so for the first time I’m gathering it all here. Enjoy!

Ayr Muir
Founder and CEO of Clover Food Lab


Read on to learn:
– How we think about taste
– Why you might think we’re crazy if you learn how we make food
– Why our menu is tiny, changes, and we run out
– What’s so special about our drinks
– How we source our ingredients
– Who develops our recipes
– How we think about nutrition and food
– What to eat at Clover if you have allergies or dietary restrictions



We taste all day long. This is one of the most important roles our managers and leaders have. We’re not working with frozen, blended, factory-made, or processed ingredients. We don’t use “flavor enhancers,” artificial or natural flavors, additives, preservatives, or anything else you’d need a chemistry degree to understand. We rely on the farmer who grew our parsnip for flavor, the soil that produced our carrot, the chicken that laid our beautiful eggs. This is core to how we make food. Sometimes our carrots are sweeter, sometimes less sweet. We taste, we balance, we taste again. I can’t promise you that anything you have from Clover will taste exactly the same one day to the next. But we all work very very hard to make sure that the quality we achieve, the depth of and cleanliness of flavors is consistently unrivaled.

The other year I noticed we talk a lot about clean flavors. We started using those words without much discussion and didn’t even think twice about it until somebody asked us what we meant. When we talk about clean flavors we mean a whole collection of things. Food that tastes clean is food you want to hold in your mouth and savor. It’s not food you want to scarf down without thought. It’s food that has subtle aftertaste you enjoy. It feels great in your mouth. It smells beautiful.

We’re talking about food that hasn’t been overcooked. Clean flavors come from the first run, not from food that has been reheated or “flashed” right before service. We’re talking about food that hasn’t oxidized (common to food that is aging, think about how an apple slice turns brown). We’re talking about the lack of “off” compounds that come from sloppy cooking methods. Think about a bright yellow yolk that comes from shocking the egg in ice after boiling it for the exact right amount of time, not the grayish yolk and off flavors that come from overcooking and/or slow cooling. We’re talking about the lack of contamination of flavors (our onion cutting boards are never used for anything else). Clean flavors are identifiable. They are complex because the ingredients themselves have wonderful complexity, not because a lot of other ingredients are added on. When we talk about clean flavors we’re talking about flavors absent of chemical or natural additives. One of the reasons we make everything from scratch is that we want to leave out common additives like citric acid, fats we don’t like, and other additives that are in processed food. Not because citric acid is somehow bad, it just doesn’t taste clean. We don’t necessarily have anything against dirty food, but it’s not what we’re working hard every day to make.


If you work at Chipotle, or Panera, or McDonald’s you might think we’re crazy

At Clover we do a lot of things unlike other fast food companies. Why? For taste of course.

It’s hard to overstate how radically different we operate vs. our competitors. The way we operate is unheard of in our industry. I mean unheard of to the point that others don’t believe me until I show them around. No, really, there is no back-of-house, everything we do is visible to our customers. At Clover we:

– Have no freezers. In the entire company. Not one.
– Change our menu day-to-day to stay in sync with the best tasting seasonal ingredients.
– Cut food as close as we can to when you’re going to eat (e.g., tomatoes are cut when you order)
– Keep your money in your region. (40-85% of our ingredients are from the Northeast)
– Use an unheard of amount of organic ingredients (typically 30-60% depending on time of year)
– Don’t EVER use any preservatives, “natural flavors,” “flavor enhancers,” “artificial flavors”*
– Make food that will improve your health (no need to tell the kids, but that food is good for them)
– Allow you to see us making your food. We have no “back of house” anywhere in our company.
– 100% of what we hand you is compostable. OK, nothing to do with taste. But it’s the right thing to do.

*This statement does not apply to the mayonnaise, and the Ketchup, which as I mentioned earlier, we don’t make.



Everything we are today, every single recipe, everything we do, has been developed with help from our customers. We invite you to join those who are helping us improve every day.

Clover’s menu is in constant development. We make mistakes all the time. We work hard to make sure those mistakes are cheap, and that we learn from them. We’d rather share a rough recipe with you and ask you what you think than drive an item to final and tell you how great it is. This core philosophy explains why we got started with a truck in the first place.

To be clear, we never make food we think tastes bad. There are important internal controls. The most senior folks in the company meet weekly to discuss food. We taste, we talk about ideas, and we plan. But just because Chris, or Enzo, or Michael, or I loves the way something tastes isn’t enough. We set our ego aside and find out what you think.

If you have any comments, ideas, etc. the best way to share those with us is through our order takers. They collect all of the feedback they hear in a day and share it up. If you’re not near a location, or not the talking type, you can use Twitter, or comment here on the website.

If you would like to submit a recipe idea to Clover, use this form. We like recipes that come from real places and that have real stories tied to them. Our chickpea fritter was inspired by a falafel Ayr ate in Paris. Our breakfast sandwich was Jeremiah’s idea. Our cinnamon lemonade came from a customer who thought it might be a good idea. The Enzo Sandwich came from a salad Vincenzo’s family makes in Calabria, Italy.


Always changing menu and run outs

Since we don’t have freezers we work day-to-day with ingredients that have just come out of the ground, just been laid by a chicken, or just been picked. This fact defines our menu.

We have a small menu. Because we’re making everything from scratch we have to limit how much we do.

Our menu changes day-to-day. Because what is in season changes day to day, not every 3 months or 3 years.

We run out of items. We know this can mean we disappoint, but since we’re not working with shelf-stable or frozen foods we only have 2 choices: a lot of waste because we always have an oversupply or running out because we’re keeping the food fresh. We choose to run out.

So our menu is tiny, changes day-to-day, and we run out of stuff. That’s why we write it on a whiteboard, because it changes so often. It’s also why we can experiment so much with our food.



We’re developing a reputation for our drinks. You may have had our cinnamon lemonade, mulled cider, a blackberry switchel, maple soda, hibiscus iced tea, Barrington Coffee, or Pretty Things Jack D’Or beer. For most fast food beverages are an afterthought, a Coke or Pepsi fountain that earns high margins. We think of drinks a little differently.

Early on Rolando (who was our Chef) and I wanted to make drinks a part of our culinary conversation. So we started asking questions. Shouldn’t a great chef know as much about the coffee she’s serving as she does the sauce on the plate? Why should our sodas be made with who-knows-what? Why shouldn’t beverages be made daily? Why shouldn’t they change with the availability of ingredients? The most important question: how amazing can this drink taste?

So we started developing drink recipes right alongside our sandwich, salad, and soup recipes. We started visiting coffee roasters around the country, watching them roast, asking questions, and tasting and tasting and tasting. We started visiting New England breweries, and tasting and tasting.

I think one of the amazing things about our beverages is that while we’re not making anywhere near the beverage profit margin others expect, we’re still able to make money. We can make money selling you some of the most amazing tasting liquids. It’s a beautiful thing. I don’t think I’d call it greed, but most other food operators, fast food as well as fine dining, just don’t focus on what their beverages taste like as much as they focus on what they’re making from selling those beverages.



We put a ton of energy and thought into what we source and from whom. We showcase the best items we can buy. And if something is out of season or not available at the quality we love we just don’t use it, selecting instead something that makes better sense for that time of year.

When we started we bought almost everything from Russo’s, a regional mid-sized produce distributor. I went to meet Tony Russo, told him what I was up to, and we went from there. I’d known of Tony for a long time. His produce is the best in Boston markets. He’s been around for a long time (dig up an old Julia Child book and you’ll see she thanks Russo’s for their amazing produce). Tony understood what we were up to and would call me to tell me he had amazing shitake from Williamstown, MA, or potatoes from Hadley, MA. He knows all of the commercial growers in the Northeast. He could tell us when we just couldn’t get stuff locally which was as important as knowing what we could get locally.

We still buy from Tony, and now our volumes are much larger and growing. We’ve recently started to develop some direct relationships with suppliers. We had the pleasure of serving amazing tomatoes from Lindentree farm this past season. And coming into 2013 Lindentree, one of the best organic growers in my opinion, is planting for us. This is a dream. We’d always hoped to get to this point and it’s happening sooner than we expected. We’re buying a huge amount of beautiful roots this winter from Winter Moon Roots of Hadley, VT. All of our honey is bought directly, as is our maple syrup. We expect to develop more direct relationships as we grow. I’ll admit, we’ve used items from my garden (e.g., mint for lemonade) but this isn’t common. I only harvest 3 times a year : ) Eddie who runs our kitchen has brought us some delicious things as well.

Some of our supply relationships are something of a hybrid between distributor and direct sourcing. For example, we love Chip-N-Farm eggs. We have Chip-N-Farm pack our eggs in special boxes that are labeled just for Clover. Tony picks them up in Bedford, MA 3 times a week, and delivers them to us directly. We do something like this with other high-volume critical ingredients (e.g., our potatoes, yogurt, cheese etc.).

Rolando brought an organization called Farm Fresh Rhode Island/ Market Mobile to Massachusetts. He knew of them from living down there and really wanted them to expand to Mass. They weren’t sure it would make sense. So Rolando went around to a bunch of local chefs in Boston, convinced many of them to take Farm Fresh as a distributor, and now they make the trip to Boston. Market Mobile is a Farm-To-Business delivery service. Sort of like a regional distributor, but with better technology and a more direct model, and only local. We love what they’re doing.

We buy spices from Raymond at Christina’s Spices (they also have a retail presence). There are a few  other items we buy from smaller scale regional suppliers.

We buy shelf stable organic products from UNFI. This includes flour, chickpeas, etc. UNFI is an enormous organic distributor who primarily supplies Whole Foods. We buy fry oil from large national mainline suppliers (US Foods currently).

Beer, coffee, and tea are products we sell that we have very little hand in making. So we do our best to know those who are doing the making. In the case of beer we don’t feature a brewer unless we’ve had a chance to visit the brewery, meet the brewer, and understand their philosophy. We’ve handpicked all of the beers we sell and know our brewers very well. Coffee is a similar process. We feature some of the best roasters in the world. We’ve developed relationships with any roaster we feature before brining them in to Clover. We see them roast, get to know the owner, ask questions about their approach and philosophy. I don’t believe there is anyone who has visited more brewers or roasters than those of us at Clover. It’s been a unique and really fun journey.

Similar efforts apply to our tea (herbals are grown and mixed by Mary Blue of Farmacy Herbs, green and oolong are from Asha Teas and Tea Trekker). It took me almost 3 years to find tea of the quality we wanted. We couldn’t be happier with what we’re now offering.


We’re a small company but we think it’s important you know what you’re eating and part of that transparency extends to nutritional content. We’re working to create a database of the nutritional content of all of our menu items, but we’re not there yet. We have an entire page devoted to this topic.


Gluten-free, allergies, sensitivities, dietary restrictions, vegan, etc.

Please ask. We work hard to make sure our order takers are well armed to answer your questions. We’re honest about the fact that we may have cross-contamination in our kitchens. We do our best to provide options for a range of eating habits, preferences, and restrictions.

We hear a lot of questions about gluten-free options. Our kitchens are not gluten free. The falafel recipe does not have any wheat flour (unlike most falafel), instead we use GF corn flour. At the restaurants we have platters available without bread. At the trucks we have “boats” which is a sandwich without the bread. We are exploring a GF bread option.

We can modify most items to make them vegan upon request. This includes two of our most popular sandwiches, the Soy BLT and the BBQ Seitan.

Sign up for a Winter Moon Roots CSA!


Pickups for the Winter Moon Roots CSA start in early December, which means if you’re looking to join, you need to sign up ASAP.

This is the produce we buy for the Clover menu. And this is the share I’m getting for my house (along with a mushroom share). It’s going to make the season of blizzards so much better.

Click here to sign up.

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New coffee launching: Barrington, Kochere, Ethiopia


Most of the wood in our restaurants and trucks comes from the Berkshires. Ayr used to drive out to get the lumber, and on his way, he’d usually visit Barth at Barrington Coffee Roasters. If you love our coffee, Barth and his team are the ones to thank. He taught us the basics of pour-over, helped us pick equipment and refine a technique, and has supplied some of our favorite coffees.

This is a great example of coffee from the Kochere district of Ethiopia, which has become really popular in the last few years. This coffee is tea-like, with juicy clementine and bergamot notes. It’s a contrast to the bold, complex berry notes of the Colectivo Miralvalle we just launched.

A lot of morning regulars at Harvard Square tell me that their palates aren’t good enough to notice the differences between coffees. If you’re one of those folks, just keep tasting. Ask your order-taker for blind samples of both and see if you can tell which is which.

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Thanksgiving Advance Ordering


That picture is from our last All-Company Meeting. Why the ti-cornered hats? We had some special guests: the Lexington minutemen, who came to talk to us about food during colonial times.

This Thanksgiving we’re offering advance ordering for a few special items. Place your order, we’ll make your food, and you can pick it up at your nearest Clover location on Tuesday 11/24 or Wednesday 11/25.

We’re running Butternut squash soup, potato leek soup, hot cranberry punch with local cranberries, lentil hazelnut cranberry salad with lentils from Timeless Seeds, roasted carrot pistachio salad with carrots from Michael Docter, house-made pita, and a couple other things we think will go well at your Thanksgiving table.

Click here for the order form. We’ll be taking orders up until Sunday, November 22.

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New coffee launching: Colectivo, Miralvalle, El Salvador


New coffee from Colectivo is landing. This should be at all restaurants and trucks by next week.

This coffee is a washed coffee from El Salvador. The Miralvalle farm is home to hot springs, and they actually use water from the geysers to rinse the coffee. The other cool thing about the farm is that the soil is volcanic and rich with phosphorous (a natural fertilizer). I’m not sure what the combination of phosphorous and geyser water does to the flavor of coffee. Any soil scientists out there want to weigh in?

You might have noticed new packaging on these coffee bags. Stacia was asking me what “Featured Farm” means. We looked it up, and it looks like Colectivo is offering coffee from smaller lots (parts of a farm) every month that are too small to be sent companywide. Luckily Clover got one of these lots. Come by and ask for a sample.

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Pay and prices: setting a date


Hi all. Time for an update on pay and prices. We’ve set a date for the first increase: 11/14/15

If you hit CloverHFI Friday at 11:59pm the ridiculously popular Brussels Sprout sandwich will be $6.54 ($7.00 even with tax). If you hit CloverHFI at 12:01am Saturday morning that same sandwich will cost $6.78. And the staff working to get you that sandwich will be earning $0.25/ hour more (unless they are a provisional employee or on salary).

If you’ve been following this (many of you have) we’re on a mission to pay more. If this is new to you check out our previous posts pay post 1, pay post 2. We’re going to achieve higher pay by making small increases to prices and watching what happens to transactions. Pay will increase when prices increase. I’d love to get to an average pay rate of $20.00. But we’ll do this cautiously, step by step. Currently our average pay is $10.60 at the restaurants (some people earn much more, nobody earns less than $10, average is $10.60).

We’ll share details along the way. So here’s what’s happening with the first increase:


Sandwiches are $6.54, will be $6.78

Platters are $7.48, will be $7.71

Kids items are $3.27, will be $3.50

French fries with rosemary are $3.27, will be $3.50

No other items will be impacted this round.


If you all keep coming these changes will allow us to make meaningful increases to employee pay. Team Members will get a $0.25 raise, as will Team Leaders, and folks that work at the kitchen and bakery in non-leadership roles. No changes will be made to salaried roles at this point (we typically set leadership compensation on an annual basis). This represents almost $400 per year increase in compensation for our hourly employees.

Some of you have asked how much of the increase goes to employees. In this case it’s about 70%. You might wonder why not 100%? A couple of reasons. (1) In the case that we’re wrong we need to cover any downside (I don’t want to be decreasing wages), (2) we would need to make increases in prices even if not for our wage effort, prices of inputs, rent, etc. continues to increase.

We’ll watch transactions carefully and 4 weeks in or so I’ll share with you the results. Assuming we don’t see a fall-off we’ll move forward with the next round of incremental increases. I’d like to continue on this path because I think paying employees more will make a better Clover which will benefit us all.

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Hot soups are coming!

Celeriac ready to be prepped

Chris has been hosting soup-making classes at the HUB. We are launching hot soups slowly, location by location. We want to make sure everyone is trained to make beautiful soups.

We’re starting with creamy soups. Expect to see creamy celery root, spicy carrot, parsnip pear, potato roasted garlic, and African peanut over the coming days. Check your location’s Twitter feed to see if soups have hit.

In a week we’ll launch brothy soups.

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Whole Foods person #2


This is an early photo from Paul sampling at Whole Foods Market, Ink Block. A couple days after he started the sampling program Paul asked me if he could get some help. The line was building and he felt “wait times were too long.”

I love this. We’re obsessed with wait times at our restaurants, and I think most of us start feeling antsy if a customer is waiting for more than a few minutes.

But at Whole Foods it was another thing. We are giving away free samples! Lines were OK.

But now I’m actually approving a second hire for Whole Foods. This position would report to Paul, who is our account manager for this business. We’re about to add new stores, currently we’re operating a single store. And the test has been going really well so we’d like some help to make sure the next stores are just as smooth. We have a slightly different approach to building this business.  We’re doing a ton of sampling. For us the most important thing is that we build great relationships with new people. So we’re super sensitive to food quality and how our food is presented. Thankfully WFM cares about this stuff too. It’s still very much in process so please, if you’ve experienced us in Ink Block, give us some raw feedback, don’t hold back!

We’re selling items Whole Foods calls “cold pack” – those packaged items you grab from the cold shelves. And we’re selling items that Whole Foods is selling in their Salad bar with our name prominently displayed. Right now our products at Whole Foods includes salads, pickled veg, and hearty spreads/ dips. We’re making daily deliveries and putting really short use by dates so that everything stays as fresh as you’d expect from Clover. And of course we’re using the same ingredients we use at our restaurants, sourced seasonally from our favorite farmers as much as possible (which is a TON) and organic when possible (also a lot), but most importantly really yummy.

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Bread recipe development


We’re a few iterations into our bread recipe development. And without question it’s the best bread we’ve served at Clover. But I think it can be oh so much better. And now that you’re all rabid for that Brussels Sprout Sandwich (and the Japanese Sweet Potato) I’m antsy for our bread to make that next step.

When I first stepped into the bakery after getting back from my August vacation there was a lot of work to do. We put together a recipe that stabilized our production. The dough was forgiving and the bread really yummy. We landed at about 20% by weight local flour and 80% by weight King Arthur flour. We blew through the supply of available Massachusetts grain very quickly and moved to Vermont grain. That local flour is magic, it’s sifted but not processed like commercial flour. And it’s milled to order so it’s super fresh.

The biggest change I want to make to our recipe would be bringing in a mother, a sourdough ferment. I don’t think we can do a full sourdough bread, I don’t think the taste would match what we’re aiming for. But I think we could supplement the fresh yeast with some mother and end up with a deeper flavored bread. The Lactic acid in sourdough can also lead to better preservation qualities. We’re not talking days, but the bread might be better over the 12-24 hours after it comes out of the oven.

Before  Continue Reading →

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Four Barrel Coffee and those brand new donuts: Friday 11/13


As you may have heard, we weren’t happy with our donut recipe. We brought the recipe back to the drawing board and tasted the results at last Tuesday’s Food Dev Meeting.

A bunch of you were able to join the meeting. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! We tasted a sour cream lemon donut, a traditional cider donut, and a more modern cider donut.

Which one did we pick?

Find out next Friday 11/13 at our Four Barrel Coffee and Donuts events at Harvard Square and Kendall Square! Tickets are just $5 and include a Four Barrel Ethiopian coffee and a donut. Click here to buy tickets for Harvard and here to buy tickets for Kendall.

Mike Squires of Four Barrel Coffee will be joining us from New York to talk about Four Barrel’s relationships with Ethiopian coffee farmers and millers.

Come celebrate this brand new roaster for Clover with brand new donuts!

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Please don’t be mad!

Untitled 3

Bear with me, I have 2 messages to deliver, both under the heading “please don’t be mad!”

I. We don’t have Brussels Sprouts sandwiches to sell today. Take a minute. Take a breath. It’ll be alright. What happened? We received a shipment of Brussels from one of the farmers that supplies us that wasn’t up to our standards. So instead of selling we had to compost a bunch of Brussels sprouts. We’ll have a new shipment in tomorrow so this is a temporary, if very frustrating, development. Please don’t be mad.

II. Second, when I introduced the Brussels Sprout sandwich to our staff I called it the “most successful sandwich in Clover’s history, aside from the Chickpea Fritter.” That’s true by the way. We’d never sold a sandwich more popular than the Brussels when we first introduced it. It actually outsold the Chickpea Fritter (reigning champ) in the first season back in 2013. But… since then Vincenzo came up with the Japanese Sweet Potato Sandwich. And somebody, OK, it was Vincenzo, introduced the crazy notion that the Brussels was not the most popular sandwich, that in fact it was the Japanese Sweet Potato.

Now I love one just as well as the other, but I couldn’t let this go without a response. Enzo even suggested that my counts back in 2013 were flawed, and that if we looked at current numbers we’d see Japanese Sweet Potato on top.

So Ethan, who is leading up systems design at Clover, introduced this handy self-serve database analysis tool called Metabase just in the nick of time. And so I couldn’t help myself, I went ahead and pulled the Japanese Sweet Potato vs. Brussels Sprout numbers for yesterday. And guess what?

So (Enzo) please don’t be mad! If we look at the numbers for today Japanese Sweet Potato will be the clear winner since Brussels is 86’d!

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