Clover Food Lab
Number of locations
|11 restaurants, 7 food trucks, (as of May 2017[update])|
|Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Burlington, Westford|
|Ayr Muir, founder
Wanda Reindorf, CFO (2016)
Christopher Anderson, VP Food (2009)
Vincenzo Pileggi, Director of Mobile Operations; R&D Chef (2009)
Megan Pileggi, Director of HR Development (2010)
Lucia Jazayeri, Director of Communications (2010)
Number of employees
|350 (May 2017)|
Clover Food Lab is a fast food chain, founded in 2008 by MIT material science graduate and Harvard MBA Ayr Muir, which operates through food trucks and restaurants in Cambridge, Brookline, and Boston, Massachusetts, United States. The company serves a simple menu that changes day to day and with the seasons based on what is available from local farmers and includes a large mix of organic ingredients. The company's food and novel approach to business have been well reviewed in local and national press.
The company began in September 2008 as one food truck serving the area around the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). As of fall 2011, Clover Food Lab had some 70 employees operating in 11 locations, including two Cambridge restaurants (Harvard Square and Inman Square) and six food trucks stationed near MIT, Boston University, Boston's South End neighborhood, Longwood Medical Area, Government Center, Boston Common, Dewey Square and other locations in greater Cambridge.
The company was founded by Ayr Muir, a graduate of MIT in Material Science and Harvard Business School MBA program. Muir, a distant cousin of naturalist John Muir, has cited environmental motivations as a driving force behind the company's creation. He wishes "to shrink the ecological footprint of the food industry by making fresh, local, sustainable vegetarian food as common and convenient as the fare at Burger King or McDonald's". The company's food trucks are decommissioned and retrofitted cargo vehicles that use recycled vegetable oil to help them run. All of the company's utensils, napkins, and other items are compostable. Despite Clover Food Lab's focus on local, sustainable and vegetarian food, Muir consciously avoids branding the company's food as such, fearing that "no one will eat it if we do".
Clover Food Lab's trucks and restaurants have minimalist, somewhat industrial design, and include elements that give them the look and feel of a laboratory. The sides and walls are plain white, menus are written on whiteboards with black dry-erase marker, and the restaurants are brightly lit and have mostly stool seating. The kitchen has "a pop-up quality, as if the crew is here temporarily, planning to relocate elsewhere." Staff enter customer orders and process credit and debit cards through an iPod touch system, and give change from their money belts instead of cash registers.
Clover Food Lab's BLT sandwich uses soy bacon, and has been cited as the best BLT sandwich in Boston by Mayor Thomas Menino. The company was a winner of the Food Truck Challenge, a competition initiated by Menino to bring healthy mobile food vending to Boston, which has led to a rising trend in the city in the use of food and coffee trucks. Clover Food Lab was named one of the top 10 food trucks in the United States by The Wall Street Journal, and given the 2011 Best of Boston award for vegetarian food by The Improper Bostonian. The company was one of several food truck services highlighted by The Huffington Post for its intense use of technology (especially social media), distinctive product, and cult-like following. In 2016, it was named the best farm-to-table restaurant in Massachusetts by Travel + Leisure.
Salmonella outbreak in 2013
In July 2013, all Clover locations were closed following a salmonella outbreak, with at least 12 confirmed cases of salmonella poisoning linked to Clover. The source of the salmonella outbreak was later attributed to a Mexican poultry farm, not Clover.
Pay What You Want Day
Typically held on the first day of operations of a new Clover location, Pay What You Want Day allows the area to get to know the food and for the staff to work out their pace.  In 2015, Pay What You Want Day was experienced in Central Square with the opening of CloverHFI. The restaurant continues operations for 24 hours, which maintains the tradition of the restaurant it replaced.
- Chung, Juliet; Wingfield, Nick; et al. (June 5, 2009). "The Truck Stops Here: 10 Top Food Trucks in The U.S." Wall Street Journal. Retrieved November 13, 2011.
- "Boston's Best Food & Drink 2011". The Improper Bostonian. Retrieved November 12, 2011.
- Matison, Lauren (May 10, 2016). "The Best Farm-to-table Restaurant in Every State". Travel + Leisure. Retrieved 23 April 2018.
- Landrigan, Kelly (October 24, 2011). "Menino looks toward a healthier Boston in kicking off Food Day". The Daily Free Press. Retrieved November 12, 2011.
- "Locations and hours -Clover Food Lab". Clover Food Lab. Retrieved 11 January 2015.
- Kalin, Sari (November–December 2010). "Everything will be different tomorrow". Technology Review. Retrieved November 13, 2011.
- Chang, Lian Chikako (February 4, 2011). "Because you can't eat architecture". Boston Society of Architects. Retrieved November 13, 2011.
- Bettex, Morgan (January 13, 2010). "Even in the cold, Clover is hot". MIT News. Retrieved November 13, 2011.
- Johnston, Susan (March 8, 2011). "Clover Food Lab Does the Impossible". Retrieved November 13, 2011.
- Julian, Sheryl (February 16, 2011). "An experiment in building better food". The Boston Globe. Retrieved November 13, 2011.
- "Food Truck Challenge". City of Boston. 2011. Retrieved November 12, 2011.
- Al Hmoud, Mounira (October 28, 2011). "Getting coffee on the go in Allston, thanks to food trucks". The Boston Globe. Retrieved November 12, 2011.
- Waters, Joe (November 5, 2011). "What Nonprofits Can Learn From The Food Truck Craze". The Huffington Post. Retrieved November 12, 2011.
- "Cambridge inspection of Clover turns up violations amid salmonella probe". Wickedlocal.com. Retrieved 11 January 2015.
- "Things are getting better". Clover Food Lab. Retrieved 11 January 2015.
- Baskin, Kara (December 24, 2013). "Social media let restaurateurs and customers interact". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
Ayr Muir, whose Clover food trucks and restaurants endured a salmonella scare this summer, ... says the outbreak was tracked to a Mexican poultry farm, not Clover.
- "Clover will donate all proceeds from its Downtown Crossing opening on Tuesday". Boston.com. 2016-01-21. Retrieved 2016-11-11.
- "The First 24-Hour Restaurant in Cambridge Opens Today with Free Sandwiches". BostInno. Retrieved 2016-11-11.
- Hatic, Dana (2016-01-22). "Pay What You Want for Clover DTX's Opening Day". Eater Boston. Retrieved 2016-11-11.
- "CloverNEW opening: Pay What You Want on Wednesday June 1, 11am-2pm - Clover Food Lab". www.cloverfoodlab.com. Retrieved 2016-11-11.
- Architect Newspaper article, 2017
- Harvard Gazette article, 2017
- BostInno article, 2016
- Harvard Crimson article, 2016
- Business Journal article, 2016
- Boston Magazine article, Making of a McTopia, 2014
- Fast Company article: Quest to become the vegetarian McDonalds, 2014
- Boston Globe, 2014
- Boston Globe, 2013
- USA Today, 2013