Buying the Farm
March 29, 2019
fresh&co is a rising star in the quick service restaurant industry. But what did they do when they wanted to offer the freshest local produce? Not only did they connect with local farmers in the tri-state area to directly source the produce used in their cafés, they took that one step further and decided to buy their own farm in Long Island.
We sat down with fresh&co founder, George Tenedios, to learn more about how they got their start and where they see their business going from here.
CP: fresh&co is a rapidly growing organization with nearly 20 locations under your belt. But I’m curious about where you got your start? What was your first job? How did you end up here?
GT: This is a family business. I grew up working with my father as young as 8 years old in his concept eatery, Café Metro, which is still in existence today. Around 2005, while in college studying hospitality, I was intrigued by the healthy food movement happening on the West Coast. This was around the time Whole Foods started to pick up steam here on the East Coast. I realized that there wasn’t a quick service restaurant in Manhattan that offered healthy, clean food, that’s both approachable and quick to execute for a busy NYC lunch crowd. This is how the fresh&co concept was born. I opened the first location in 2010. Since inception, our goal has always been to offer fresh, clean food that’s seasonally driven and of course- just made, just for you.
CP: Sounds like you always had a mission to create fresh, creative and healthy meals. At what point did you decide to take that one giant step further by purchasing and operating your own farm?
GT: The farm was a twofold decision. We’ve had ties out on the North Fork for over 20 years on a personal level. From summer weekend getaways to family scattered throughout the North Fork and Long Island, we’re always out there. With our history in Long Island and the launch of fresh&co, we created relationships with farmers that supply produce that we use during harvest seasons. We came to a point where we decided that it just made sense to purchase our own farm and use it to our advantage, not only to hand-select and specifically harvest the right produce, but to use the farm as our classroom for our team members and culinary team- a true farm-to-table experience. We’ve been blessed with our relationships and the loyalty of our farmers and partners in Long Island, and that they have embraced fresh&co farms, and have helped us harvest and learn how to be farmers ourselves. I can’t forget to mention, we kept a portion of the farm for personal enjoyment, where we have 300 free range Ameraucana chickens, a dozen sheep, two horses and a few alpacas!
CP: What percentage of produce served in your cafés comes straight from your farm?
GT: Our first harvest season in 2015 was extremely bumpy. We were just getting going and figuring out the lay of the land, so we barely hit 2% of produce provided to our restaurants. 2016 was 5%. 2018 was a terrible harvest year weather-wise and we were still able to harvest roughly 12% of our produce during the peak seasons. 2019 is shaping up to be an early start to the season, so our goal is to hit 20%. For the remainder of the produce, we are blessed to work closely with partners such as Latham Farms and Satur Farms.
CP: What would you say your biggest “win” has been to date?
GT: I would say our biggest win to date has been growing the fresh&co brand and family to 19 restaurants in one of the hardest and most expensive markets to operate a QSR in. We have had great brand recognition and loyalty over the years which has helped us to expand into untapped neighborhoods where we can further spread our love for food and customer service.
CP: Anything else you’d like our members to know?
GT: We just launched our spring menu, which we are super proud of. It’s been received very well so far by our customers, and has created a great lunch vibe for us. Keep an eye on our menu development, as we have a lot of exciting new items, categories and themes we are gearing up to implement system-wide in the coming weeks!