July 29, 2021

New prices, inflation?

That’s Kev, the GM of Clover Newtonville, getting ready for the first big lunch rush at our newest Clover. What does he have to do with the price you pay for your chickpea fritter? Warning: slightly lengthy/ detailed post ahead.

We’ve been increasing our hourly pay. Today our average earnings/hour for hourly employees is $19.67/ hr. That’s just shy of the $20/ hr goal I set for Clover back in 2015. At the time I wanted to get that done by 2018. So it took a bit longer but we’re almost there. But I also thought we’d have to sell sandwiches for $11. Currently the Chickpea Fritter Sandwich is $8.87.

About that sandwich price… we set that price in April 2018. That was a long time ago. I just completed a survey of our competitors’ price changes since that time. They are all up, a LOT. Prices for the leaders in fast casual (Chipotle, Panera) are up over 15% over that same period. Others in our industry (Sweetgreen, Dig) have increased prices by 10-14%. Clover? No increases. So we’re a bit overdue. Next week you will notice Clover prices will be on average 7% higher than this week. That Chickpea Fritter Sandwich is going to be $9.32, which is a 5% increase.

Why increase prices? Our costs continue to increase, we pay our employees more, we pay our landlords more, we pay more for utilities, we pay more for the food we buy, we pay more for packaging, we pay more to repair equipment, we pay more in insurance. To remain healthy we need to increase prices to help cover these costs. We’re seeing particularly acute increases in costs over the past few months. But we’re also seeing long term trends. For example since 2019, Clover’s employer taxes and workers’ comp (our costs to employ) have risen from 14% of pay to 17% of pay. That means if I were paying an employee $100 in wages in 2019 I had to pay $14 in employer taxes and workers comp (not withholdings that the employee pays, those were another 18.5% on average). Now in 2021 we pay on average $17 for every $100 in wages.

Here’s a breakdown showing hourly pay, including tips, and taxes, over the past 2 years.

20192020 – Feb2021 – June
Average Hourly Wage$14.37/ hr$15.46/ hr$16.04/ hr
Average Tips$0.76/ hr$1.88/ hr$3.63/ hr
Average earnings$15.14/ hr$17.34/ hr$19.67/ hr
Average taxes withheld18.43%17.34%18.33%
Employer taxes12%13%15%
Workers Comp2%2%2%
Cost to Clover/ hr$16.38$17.78$18.77

Changing prices is one of the more delicate and complex things we do at Clover. It’s important we take it seriously and get it right. For some customers the price changes don’t mean much, but for other customers this is a VERY big deal. We know you love our food and rely on us for nourishment. We don’t want to put that out of reach for anybody.

  • This year we have something really exciting to offer. For those who are managing food budgets (and we know that’s a lot of you) we have the Clover Club. This is a restaurant subscription program we’ve been testing quietly for 3 years and it is now available to all Clover customers. If you want to eat more Clover and save money this is for you. Savings of up to 40% off our normal menu prices.

When we think about changing prices, we look carefully at what others in the market are charging, we look carefully at our own costs, and then after determining the price by item, we change our own expectations for labor as a percent of sales (the way we staff our stores), food costs as a percent of sales.

We also take a hard look at our opportunities to re-invest in our staff. We’ve been working hard on improving pay for hourly employees and we want to make sure we improve pay for Restaurant General Managers as well. These are the folks who make sure Clover restaurants are running every single day.

And so this price change is going to be accompanied by very significant increases in General Manager pay rates. We’re targeting an improvement to General Manager base pay of about $10,000/ year, for some tiers this will be much higher. This is super exciting for me and I think the new pay structure will be very powerful for Clover overall.

TierSales volumeCurrent GM BaseNew GM BasePerformance Pay (Max)Total Pay (range)
Tier 1<$1M$50,000$60,000$12,000$60-72,000
Tier 2$1M – 1.5M$56,700$75,000$15,000$75-90,000
Tier 3$1.5M – 2M$67,500$90,000$18,000$90-108,000
Tier 4$2M – 2.5M$74,700$100,000$20,000$100-120,000
Tier 5> $2.5M$81,000$110,000$22,000$110-132,000
Note: this is a simplified version of our complete GM Pay structure. Please reference the employee handbook for more detailed information.

I haven’t yet met somebody who likes to be charged more for something. I get that. But I hope some of this detail will help everybody understand why we are making changes, how important it is for our mission of getting more meat-eaters to fall in love with veggies, and how those price changes enable us to make other positive changes (like increasing pay). When you buy a Chickpea Fritter Sandwich you’re not just paying for that bite, you’re putting your $ to local farm systems and you’re putting your $ into the pockets of the folks working at Clover.

And that inflation question? I don’t know. Seems that there is inflation currently. Will it last? Ask an economist : )

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.