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Amy’s Kitchen grocery line to open restaurants

Amy’s Kitchen wants to be more than just a frozen food company. In late June, it will launch its first drive-thru restaurant in Rohnert Park, Cal. to provide the same freshly prepared vegetarian foods the company is known for—but fast.

“Everybody said we couldn’t do it,” says Andy Berliner who co-founded the company with his wife Rachel (and named it after their daughter). Prepping and cooking an entirely vegetarian menu of burgers, pizzas and tortillas in under three minutes is a tall task, after all. “But we set up a test kitchen in our warehouse space and we did it. We learned how to do it from scratch very quickly.”

The company sources many of its ingredients for its packaged frozen food products from organic farmers, and that mission will continue with its drive thru. Drive-thru diners will have a choice of ordering meals that are gluten-free or dairy-free, and the pizza comes in either a rice or wheat crust. Amy’s Kitchen has 50 people working with farmers to source raw ingredients, from the potatoes in the French fries to the grains in the burgers, up to 18 months ahead of time. Keeping up with the demands of a drive thru stresses the already challenging system even further, says Berliner. “The weather doesn’t always cooperate, so one of the most challenging parts of our business right now is the agricultural end,” he says.

Still, every meal is hand made, which means the restaurant’s kitchen is bigger than most fast-food chains. The vegetarian burgers, for example, will be grilled on site and the buns toasted to order. And for all that manual labor, menu prices at Amy’s Drive-Thru are on par with more popular carnivorous food chains. Burgers will cost $2.99 (doubles will be $4.29), while cheese pizzas will go for $5.89, burritos for $4.69 and salads from $3.99 to $7.99.

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