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Boloco unwraps a superfood salad

Burritos and bowls are cornerstones of the menu at Boston-based Boloco, with a few salads for support. This winter, the 22-unit fast casual expanded its salad line with the New England Harvest Salad, built around vitamin-rich kale instead of romaine.

1. Nutrition first
“There are lots of moving pieces when you’re doing R&D, but the nutrition piece is a top priority,” says Eric Kinniburgh, Boloco’s director of culinary. Consumer feedback revealed that Boloco diners are  tuned into vitamins and other nutrients. “Kale brings more to the table in terms of color and nutrition, and organic quinoa adds gluten-free, whole-grain goodness and fiber.”

2. Harvesting ingredients
To introduce the salad this winter, Kinniburgh chose in-season vegetables including butternut squash and beets, complemented by cranberries, roasted- garlic mushrooms and grilled chicken. The squash is roasted in-house and the cooked beets are tossed with oil and vinegar “to create more of a salsa,” he says. 

3. Seasonal and size flexibility
The produce can change with the seasons. “We switched the name from Autumn Harvest Salad to accommodate this possibility,” says Kinniburgh. “I added crumbled goat cheese to play a lighter ingredient against heartier ones.” Two salad sizes offer portion flexibility: a 40-ounce Big Bowl ($8.99) and 24-ounce Little Bowl ($6.70).”

4. The right specs
Boloco opted for greenhouse-grown baby kale; it’s available year-round and “is easier on the tooth,” says Kinniburgh. At first he purchased bunches of kale but prep jacked up labor, so he switched to triple-washed and bagged baby kale. Whole squash is peeled, split, seeded, diced and roasted. Pre-diced squash didn’t work; the cost was too high.

5. Additions and subtractions
Including quinoa in the mix means guests can now sub it for rice in Boloco’s bowls. Plus, any New England Harvest Salad ingredient can be tossed into a burrito or bowl at no extra cost. To make way for the new item, three burritos—the Spicy BLT, Memphis BBQ and Chopped Sesame—were axed because sales dropped.

What’s next

Boloco raised prices by about 4 percent early in 2014 to keep pace with food costs and support its sustainability mission. Kinniburgh is now developing an ancient grain hot cereal to boost the breakfast daypart. Also in the works: a kale-cucumber-matcha green tea smoothie. 

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