March 29, 2013

Next step in the evolution of Clover packaging


This picture is what is left when I finish my sandwich from Clover.

When we launched the MIT in 2008 with the goal of testing and developing our food our goal for packaging was simple: hold the food and not cost much. We made decisions like one size coffee cup which helped simplify things on the truck, limit the amount of caffeine we were handing to customers, and I suspected would give us some buying power in the future. We used foil on our sandwiches, common for food trucks. We chose fry boats for cost, because they kept the fries from steaming in their heat, and because they had a fair-reference, which we thought fun.

As we matured our goals for packaging evolved. I became hyper-focused on waste. It was just sickening to me how much waste restaurants produce, and I was seeing it up close for the first time. We streamlined our packaging and started making decisions to influence customers. This included using butcher paper for sandwiches. Only handing out bags if a customer asked for a bag. Only wrapping to go if a customer asked for to go. Not pre-loading drinks with lids (they are available for self-serve, but we don’t put them on every drink automatically). The largest change we made at that time was moving to 100% compostable packaging. This was a project I’d been working on for 2 years and when Harvard Square opened I believe it was the first restaurant in the country to have 100% compostable packaging. No recycling. No trash. Just compost. Since making this change we’ve consulted with a number of other restaurants about approaching a similar goal and we’re really proud of the leadership role we’ve been able to take here.

I’m now starting to think harder about convenience. We’ve been concerned about the customer experience since day 1, but there’s not questions we’ve made choices that make the packaging experience less good. If you compare us to McDonald’s or even Chipotle the end of your meal is MUCH less waste, without a question. But there’s also no question that it’s a much less EASY experience. We ask more of our customers. Comparing:

Coffee and breakfast sandwich at Clover
– 2″ x 6″ strip of compostable butcher paper
– 12 ounce compostable paper cup

Coffee and Breakfast sandwich at McDonald’s or Dunkin’
– Styrofoam Cup with plastic lid (if you order small at Dunkin you can get a paper cup, trick one of our contractors taught me)
– Stir stick
– Cream and sugar
– Napkins
– Bag
– Sandwich wrap (12″x12″ waxed non-compostable paper)

So how to we bridge this divide? I’m afraid our current packaging approach has some negative effects:
1) People tend not to buy multiple meals for togo
2) Customer confusion, especially for first-time customers or less bought-in customers
3) Messy meals. I think the eating experience feels overly messy to some.


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!)