Oklahoma City attorney Tom Wolfe was training for a marathon in 2009 when he set out to find restaurants in his hometown that served up healthier but still delicious food. Wolfe quickly discovered there weren't any - not cool. Coolgreens was born.
Eight years and six restaurants later, the healthy lifestyle eatery is gearing up to expand nationwide through franchising - with a fresh take on tasty food as fuel and building unique connections with the customers and communities it serves. The brand has been busy streamlining operations, with a focus on product consistency and strong customer service that has Coolgreens poised for growth, without compromising its core quality, notes Coolgreens CEO Robert Lee.
"We've created a simple operations model that centers around natural ingredients, and that's designed to prevent cost overruns," says Lee, an early investor who joined Coolgreens as CEO in 2014. "Our mission is to fuel healthy communities with fresh and natural food. As a result, our menu highlights both year-round and seasonal flavors through healthier food presented in a unique way. The innovative food combinations we've created remain the backbone of our business, and we're so excited to bring them to new markets across the country."
The timing for expansion is spot on. With gluten-free, paleo, organic, natural, non-GMO, and other nutritional buzzwords now mainstream, Coolgreens is at the forefront of the quick service natural dining experience.
From the start, Wolfe knew the concept needed to be more than a salad bar. The restaurant had to have heart, be unique, and cater to a broad base of people who shared a passion for healthy living. He called on talented chefs to create a menu that offered fresh, naturally sourced, build-your-own salads and wraps, handmade soups and dressings, artisanal flatbread pizzas, and proprietary hot quinoa bowls. Over the years, the Coolgreens menu has evolved to become an innovator in healthy-to-you foods - with most items under 600 calories.
The chef-inspired variable menu is also designed to appeal to all tastes and lifestyles - from casual salad eaters who may not have been exposed to healthier options to those with unique dietary needs. The menu highlights decadent, yet health-conscious options from fresh tuna steak sandwiches to delicious handmade flatbreads, a broader approach that's boosted dinner sales.
A unique menu and simple operations are key to a profitable start, but at the heart of Coolgreens' mission is a passion to make the markets they serve better places to live. Whether planting local community gardens, feeding marathon runners, or hosting weekly yoga classes, Coolgreens' commitment to their neighborhoods is noticeable.
"Coolgreens is not just about good, healthy, clean food, but more about an overall lifestyle," says VP of Development Clay Carson. "We have a unique opportunity to do more in our communities, to educate people about health and exercise and the benefits that they offer."
In a booming QSR segment previously considered female-dominated, Coolgreens is the emerging market leader. Their secret sauce? A belief in serving only fresh, healthy food in a contemporary, fun environment; hiring and training genuinely good people who care; practicing the art of the Golden Rule daily; and inspiring others often.
Superior training. Sophisticated, proven systems, and an experienced executive team.
By the numbers:
With an initial investment ranging from $289,232 to $475,100, Coolgreens is targeting entrepreneurial-minded, sophisticated restaurant operators to expand the brand.
"Our franchise offering is strategically designed to provide the opportunity for quick success and expansion through multi-unit growth," says Carson. "This scalable approach, combined with the unique food creations that have made our corporate locations so successful, creates an exciting new opportunity in the healthier eating segment," he says. "We can't wait to build on the success we've seen in our hometown as we expand Coolgreens to communities nationwide."
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