Clover Food Lab emerges from bankruptcy with big growth plans

The vegetarian fast-food chain emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after just a few months with plans to grow to 60 locations around New England within five years.
Clover Food Lab
Clover Food Lab wants to get to 60 units within five years. | Photo courtesy of Clover Food Lab.

Clover Food Lab isn’t shy about its post-bankruptcy plans.

The Boston-based quick-service restaurant chain this week emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection just six months after filing. The vegetarian chain operates 13 locations, after closing two of them during the bankruptcy, along with a large warehouse.

And now it wants more. The company said that it plans to aggressively expand around New England in the coming years, with the goal to get to 60 locations over the next five years, starting in Greater Boston.

The company plans to focus on smaller-footprint restaurants in university areas and urban markets. It is also planning a brand refresh to attract new customers and enter new markets.

Clover was considered a hot concept with a veggie-focused menu designed to give health-conscious consumers an alternative to traditional fast food. Its hope was to convince traditional meat eaters to try its menu and says that 90% of its customers are meat eaters.

The brand was founded in 2008 by Ayr Muir, first as a food truck before it moved onto brick-and-mortar restaurants. It used in-season ingredients and boasted restaurants with strong sales and profitability.

Clover ran into problems during the pandemic, which forced the chain to shift to daily meal boxes that now account for 20% of revenue.

The chain had a deal to raise cash to fund operations last year but a second installment of those funds never came to fruition. Neither did an effort to renegotiate leases, which prompted the bankruptcy filing under Chapter 11, Subchapter 5, which gives small businesses time to reorganize debts.

Clover’s filing came as a number of restaurant chains have struggled or sought federal debt protection, including Tijuana Flats and Oberweis Dairy over the last two weeks.

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