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 commented:

“The food insecurity problem within our community was exacerbated in 2020 and we decided to join GiftAMeal as a way to continue to support the community who's always supported us. Our customer base adopted the GiftAMeal app quickly and we went from hundreds to thousands of meals being donated seemingly overnight!

This partnership gave our community an easy way to help those in need by doing what they love most, dining out at Crushed Red!

Just from the fact that we’ve had 6,000 meals that have been donated, you don’t need to be a mathematician to know that our customer base embraces the GiftAMeal program. And if they’re coming once, they’re coming multiple times.”

And just as Crushed Red has shown love for its community, the community has returned the favor.

The positive response has been absolutely essential and deeply meaningful for Crushed Red and LaRocca. And it was more than just remembering to patronize Crushed Red; these customers were coming often, buying gift cards, and even ordering food so as to tip extravagantly:

“So many people have helped support us!

Really, to watch a curbside pickup where someone would come by to pick up a $40 order for their family… and leave a $150 tip… made me go, 'Oh my God!'

They knew that the livelihoods of the restaurant employees were in jeopardy and they really helped us keep everyone employed.”

This kind of community support speaks to the hard work of Crushed Red and its staff. They’ve earned a well-deserved reputation across the region.

Follow along as Crushed Red continues to launch new innovations and make an impact on our community — they’re not even close to slowing down! Next up: Crushed Red will be on most major fitness apps at the end of February!

Be the first to find out about new developments with this socially and environmentally conscious ( not to mention delicious!) chain by downloading the Crushed Red app, joining their email list for updates and inside info, and following them on social media (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn).

And the next time you’re deciding where to eat, choose Crushed Red!

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