Crushed Red — Empowering Access to Healthy Food

Crushed Red is no stranger to bringing customers the healthy food they crave, on their own terms.

When COVID-19 disrupted the restaurant industry back in March of 2020, this elevated, fast-casual concept adapted quickly to keep doing what they do best — empowering our community in getting access to healthy food.

Chris LaRocca, CEO and founder of Crushed Red (with locations in Clayton, Kirkwood, Creve Coeur, and Chesterfield, MO) describes the atmosphere of hope and perseverance that influenced the early days of the pandemic:

“The way I began and ended every call was with these few sentences:

‘Once we get through this — and we WILL get through this — we will have looked at how we’ve lived our lives and ran our business… and we WILL create new ways to run OUR business and adapt.’

I feel like everyone took that to heart. There was a tremendous amount of buy-in which really strengthened us as a family.”

And adapt, they did! From off-site dining, new distribution channels to other initiatives, Crushed Red did what was needed to ensure everyone in our local community could access healthy, delicious food.

With a diverse offering of artfully chopped salads, handmade pizzas, hearty soups and savory shareables, Crushed Red has something for everyone. The initial closure of dining rooms across the region represented a huge shift in the way that our community was able to access this food:

“Third party takeout went from 15% of our business to 70% of our business. Things got turned upside down… and how we ran our restaurants became a thing of the past. We had to operate them totally differently.”

And things weren’t just changing for restaurants: as dining rooms were closing, so too were the salad bars in grocery stores across the nation. Recognizing the need to serve health-conscious shoppers, and buoyed by their newfound mastery of their “salads to-go” model, Crushed Red moved to create a new type of partnership with Schnucks, a large regional grocery chain. LaRocca recounts:

“We approached Schnucks and said we could supply grab ’n’ go salads. We began to supply them in the deli section in tamper proof containers. We started in four and got up to twenty four locations! The program is still going strong, we expect that to be a part of how we do business going forward.”

In addition to adapting to delivery and grocery, Crushed Red launched an all-new interactive nutrition calculator to meet the specific, personal dietary needs of customers ordering from the Crushed Red storefronts.

“I wanted our guests to have the ability to come in and say, ‘I want the farmer’s market salad… but I’m not eating dairy… so if I can take the dairy off, and add more edamame, what do the nutritional aspects look like?’

With the nutritional calculator you can do that, and understand your meal, and what you’re putting into your body. It really helps people make health-conscious decisions and navigate through our menu for their own particular diet.”

As a community-conscious brand, Crushed Red has always taken an active interest in supporting local causes — especially those that work to heal food insecurity. At the beginning of the pandemic, Crushed Red joined the GiftAMeal program to help those facing hunger in the St. Louis metro area.

Now, every order from Crushed Red is eligible to feed far more than just the recipient: each time a customer uses the free GiftAMeal app to photograph their Crushed Red purchase, a meal is donated through a local food bank (Operation Food Search) to a neighbor in need. LaRocca