Clover Food Lab is an Experiment

Clover Food Lab Menu Board

You've got some options when you're looking for a "Boston" place to eat downtown.

"Ye Olde" places abound. 

But there's a downside to these historical stalwarts (aside from the fact that "Ye Olde" is fake old English). A recent, savage Boston Globe review of the Union Oyster House, which features "Ye Olde" on its sign, captured what can happen when tourism takes over. 

Experiment

Then there are the experimental outposts, the extensions of Boston's university culture.

Clover Food Lab is on the forward edge of this frontier. Step into one of their restaurants around the city (they've got about a dozen), and you feel like you're entering a university R&D lab. And isn't that academic culture one of the reasons why you visit Boston?

The daily menu sets the tone: it's displayed on a cluster of live monitors. The "active experiments" are labelled with laboratory beaker icons. You can see one of the beaker icons above, next to the PB and Carrot Marmalade Sandwich. 

Initial Research: Facts about Clover, and Ayr Muir, the Founder and CEO

(Gleaned from a bunch of newspaper and magazine articles, listed below. I'll update as I learn more.)

  • He's an MIT-trained engineer with an MBA from Harvard Business School.
  • He worked as a corporate consultant at McKinsey & Company, until he decided to get into the food business, in part to help save the planet by serving healthy food.
  • Clover's menu is vegetarian, but that is not touted by the company for fear that it will turn some customers off. Employees also don't use the word "healthy." Same reason. 
  • Muir tracks his customers’ behavior relentlessly, both in his restaurants and on social media.
  • In an average month, 80 percent of Clover's menu is refreshed in response to new experiments, data, and research. 
  • Clover's very first item, a chickpea fritter sandwich with falafel and hummus, has gone through 32 versions.
  • The entire enterprise was launched with a single food truck in 2008, mostly as a way to try out menu items.
  • “We want thousands and thousands of restaurants,” he has said, and he expects Clover to one day be “more profitable than Chipotle and bigger than McDonald’s.” (He said this back when Chipotle was growing like crazy. I'm pretty sure it's cooled off since.)

Three Topics that Ayr Muir Writes About on the Clover Website:

Locations

(About a dozen around Boston, and a few in Washington DC. Click on the map)

Clover Locations in Boston

CloverDTX: Adventurous Food

I've eaten at seven Clover Food Labs, including their original truck at MIT, which is no longer there. The one I eat at the most is CloverDTX, located directly on the Freedom Trail.

Two recommendations: 

Some of the adventurous offerings I'm planning to try (stay tuned):

  • Egg and Eggplant Platter
  • Beluga Lentil Salad

Two 360s of CloverDTX

Post from RICOH THETA. - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA
Post from RICOH THETA. - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Lately, I've been going to CloverFIN, which I've discovered has an even more adventurous bent, perhaps because it's the HQ. More on that in a future post. 

Sources