Amy's Kitchen, a long-time favorite of people who consume gluten-free, vegetarian, or vegan frozen foods, quietly opened up a fast-food outlet two years ago, in Northern California. Using family recipes, they provided customers of Amy's Drive Thru with healthy, organic versions of comfort foods, like burgers, mac and cheese, and breakfast sandwiches. Surprising them, but not so surprising to people who are big fans of healthy and sustainable eating, the restaurant took off. Now, they're looking to expand into the rest of the country.
What's particularly unique about Amy's Drive Thru is that it is 100 percent meat-free. Beyond that, as Fred Scarpulla Jr. explains to Fast Company, their kitchen is so devoted to being a safe space for consumers with different allergies and dietary needs, they actually divide food prep into three main areas: gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian. That way, costumers don't have to worry about cross-contamination. In terms of ethics, Amy's Drive Thru also sets a high standard; as Scarpulla notes, all of their 90 restaurant employees are paid above minimum wage, and receive full benefits, which is certainly not the industry norm when it comes to fast-food establishments.
A move like this is, of course, in contrast to a lot of what we think of when we think about fast food. When it comes to the fast food industry, everything is focused on being cheap. While some of the fast food giants provides a quick bite and one less thing to worry about in a busy day, they often offer few options for people who have dietary restrictions, or are looking to consume only cruelty-free food. Younger people are also attempting to visit them less and looking at healthier options. After all, trying to eat healthy shouldn’t be limited to grocery shopping trips and cooking at home.
Amy’s Drive Thru was created just two years ago and serves nothing but organic and vegetarian food that’s gluten free. The goal was to be an alternative to those that wanted fast food, but didn’t want to opt for the national chains. While there are more healthy foods becoming available at these places, and there’s the intrigue of regional fan-favorites like In-And-Out, Amy’s Drive Thru provides a full menu and the new, local interest.
However, that local feel could be going away soon. Thanks to business taking off at their first operation in Rohnert Park, California, they’ll be opening six more locations in the near future according to Fast Company. Clearly, there was some demand for a truly healthy fast food option instead of throwing a burger into lettuce or getting Fresco-style Taco Bell items.
"Ultimately, we hope to have drive-thrus across the country, so that people everywhere can access family recipes, made-by-hand on their way into work, on their next road trip and after a big game," a spokesperson for the company told TODAY Food.
Amy’s didn’t get their start just a few years ago. The company was first established over 29 years ago and many have seen their products in frozen food sections at many grocery stores. As expected, many of their items are vegetarian, contain no GMOs, and are gluten free. After their success serving a relatively niche market by providing sustainable and eco-friendly ingredients, they opted to see if they could change the game in the fast food industry as well, and opened up the first shop next to their headquarters.
The restaurant is open daily from 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM, with breakfast being served until 11:00 AM and lunch and dinner options the rest of the day. Along with burgers, there are burritos, pizza, and soup. Breakfast consists of a wide variety of organic sandwiches, bagels, and burritos. As you’d expect, all the hot and cold drinks are organic, as well.
What’s additionally extraordinary are the prices, as they manage to keep them in line with their fast food competition, making their meals affordable to people who are on a budget. While the new Amy's Kitchen restaurants won't be opening up across the country just yet, we're hopeful to see them expand all the way to the East Coast soon enough.