The words “organic” and “fast food” usually don’t mix.
In fact, one may even say they’re polar opposites.
But one duo is on a mission to change that with the first USDA certified organic fast food restaurant in America. And they’re bringing it to Bellevue.
Business partners Erica Welton and Dennis Hoover plan to open The Organic Coup at Bellevue’s Skyline Tower, 10900 NE Fourth St., on Jan. 3. Already, they have successfully opened and operated 10 stores in the San Francisco Bay area and Sacramento, California.
“We know we wanted to be in the Pacific Northwest. Between Seattle, Bellevue and Portland, there’s so many like-minded people,” Hoover said. “From Costco, the Pacific Northwest sold more organic than northern California – these are our people.”
Hoover and Welton started their careers at Issaquah-based Costco. Hoover was a senior vice president for the northern California region and had worked for the company for 33 years and Welton was a food buyer before they opened The Organic Coup.
“We saw this huge shift happen,” Welton said of the food people were buying.”People were aware of where their food came from and it grew and grew until in 2015 Costco became the No. 1 certified organic food retailer in America.”
As they looked at the organic fast food desert around them, and the growing trends, the two decided to open their first fast food restaurant in November 2015 with James Sinegal, co-founder of Costco, as their lead investor. What made them different from other organic restaurants was the quick and efficient way people get their food, which is 100 percent USDA certified organic.
“I think one of the reasons why people haven’t done this before is it’s difficult in a typical restaurant,” Hoover said. “We have a limited menu.”
But what’s on their menu won’t disappoint.
Welton’s favorite food is their wrap with spicy BBQ chicken and Hoover’s is the sandwich with ranch. Both of those happen to be their most popular items as well.
“Our crispy chick is cooked in organic coconut oil,” Welton said. “We wanted the cleanest, healthiest options for what we were cooking in.”
The Organic Coup also offers scrambled egg breakfast burritos, prepacked organic salad and acai bowls among their many wraps, sandwiches and bowls.
Not only is all of their food organic – down to the cheese, dressings and soda (yes, soda) – but they also offer gluten free options, vegan and non-GMO (genetically modified organisms) food.
Most of the organic food won’t have to travel far to get from the farm to the table either.
The Organic Coup has sourced their produce from a local vendor, who will pull as much produce as they can from the Pacific Northwest for the Pacific Northwest-located stores. (They plan to open another store in Seattle in February and a food truck will make an appearance at the Redmond Microsoft campus in mid-March.) Chicken will come from organic chicken farmers located in the Pacific Northwest, as well.
Welton and Hoover will also draw from the local pool of workers for their new location but what sets them apart from fast food chains is they put considerable effort into job training and will pay a $15 wage.
“We really wanted to invest in our team and it’s helped us,” Welton said.
Hoover added that their year over year turnover is at a low of 33 percent compared to the fast food industry’s 100 percent turnover rate. They’ve found that cross training, education and time spent with the store manager are the causes.
“Our employees believe in what we’re doing,” Hoover said. “I don’t know if everybody’s proud to be working for fast food, but they can be proud about the product we’re serving.”
For more information on The Organic Coup, visit theorganiccoup.com.