Clover Food Lab

Last updated
Clover Food Lab
Industry Food
FoundedOctober 2008
Headquarters Cambridge, Massachusetts
Number of locations
12 restaurants, (as of May 2017)
Area served
Boston, Sudbury, Cambridge, Burlington, Westford
Key people
Ayr Muir, founder and CEO
ProductsFast Food
Number of employees
400 (May 2017)

Clover Food Lab is a vegetarian fast food chain, founded in 2008 by MIT material science graduate and Harvard MBA Ayr Muir, which operates food trucks and restaurants in Massachusetts, United States. The company serves a simple menu that changes day to day and with the seasons based on what is available from local farmers and includes a large mix of organic ingredients. [1] [2] [3]

Fast food food prepared and served in a small amount of time

Fast food is a type of mass-produced food designed for commercial resale and with a strong priority placed on "speed of service" versus other relevant factors involved in culinary science. Fast food was originally created as a commercial strategy to accommodate the larger numbers of busy commuters, travelers and wage workers who often did not have the time to sit down at a public house or diner and wait for their meal. By making speed of service the priority, this ensured that customers with strictly limited time were not inconvenienced by waiting for their food to be cooked on-the-spot. For those with no time to spare, fast food became a multibillion-dollar industry. In 2018, the fast food industry was worth an estimated $570 billion globally.

Harvard Business School business school in Boston, Massachusetts

Harvard Business School (HBS) is the graduate business school of Harvard University in Boston, Massachusetts. Consistently ranked among the top most business schools in the world, the school offers a large full-time MBA program, management related doctoral programs, HBS Online and many executive education programs. It owns Harvard Business Publishing, which publishes business books, leadership articles, online management tools for corporate learning, case studies and the monthly Harvard Business Review. It is home to the Baker Library/Bloomberg Center.

Food truck Truck used for carrying and selling food

A food truck is a large motorized vehicle, such as a van or trailer, equipped to cook, prepare, serve, and/or sell food. Some, including ice cream trucks, sell frozen or prepackaged food; others have on-board kitchens and prepare food from scratch, or they heat up food that was prepared in a bricks and mortar commercial kitchen. Sandwiches, hamburgers, french fries, and other regional fast food fare is common. In recent years, associated with the pop-up restaurant phenomenon, food trucks offering gourmet cuisine and a variety of specialties and ethnic menus have become particularly popular. Food trucks may also sell cold beverages such as soda pop and water. Food trucks, along with portable food booths and food carts, are on the front line of the street food industry that serves an estimated 2.5 billion people every day.



The company began in October 2008 as one food truck serving the area around the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). [4] As of summer 2018, Clover Food Lab had some 400 employees operating in 12 restaurants across the greater Boston area. [5]

Massachusetts Institute of Technology University in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is a private research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Institute is a land-grant, sea-grant, and space-grant university, with an urban campus that extends more than a mile (1.6 km) alongside the Charles River. The Institute also encompasses a number of major off-campus facilities such as the MIT Lincoln Laboratory, the Bates Center, and the Haystack Observatory, as well as affiliated laboratories such as the Broad and Whitehead Institutes. Founded in 1861 in response to the increasing industrialization of the United States, MIT adopted a European polytechnic university model and stressed laboratory instruction in applied science and engineering. It has since played a key role in the development of many aspects of modern science, engineering, mathematics, and technology, and is widely known for its innovation and academic strength, making it one of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning in the world.

Environmental vision

The company was founded by Ayr Muir, a graduate of MIT in Material Science and Harvard Business School MBA program. [6] Muir, a distant cousin of naturalist John Muir, [6] has cited environmental motivations as a driving force behind the company's creation. He wishes "to shrink the ecological footprint of the food industry by making fresh, local, sustainable vegetarian food as common and convenient as the fare at Burger King or McDonald's". [6] The company's food trucks are decommissioned and retrofitted cargo vehicles that use recycled vegetable oil to help them run. [7] [8] All of the company's utensils, napkins, and other items are compostable. [9] Despite Clover Food Lab's focus on local, sustainable and vegetarian food, Muir consciously avoids branding the company's food as such, fearing that "no one will eat it if we do". [6]

John Muir Scottish-born American naturalist and author

John Muir also known as "John of the Mountains" and "Father of the National Parks", was an influential Scottish-American naturalist, author, environmental philosopher, glaciologist, and early advocate for the preservation of wilderness in the United States of America.

Ecological footprint An individuals or a groups human demand on nature

The ecological footprint measures human demand on nature, i.e., the quantity of nature it takes to support people or an economy. It tracks this demand through an ecological accounting system. The accounts contrast the biologically productive area people use for their consumption to the biologically productive area available within a region or the world. In short, it is a measure of human impact on Earth's ecosystem and reveals the dependence of the human economy on natural capital.

Food industry collective of diverse businesses that supplies much of the worlds food

The food industry is a complex, global collective of diverse businesses that supplies most of the food consumed by the world's population. Only subsistence farmers, those who survive on what they grow, and hunter-gatherers can be considered outside the scope of the modern food industry.


Clover Food Lab's restaurant in Harvard Square Clover Food Lab, Harvard Square restaurant; Cambridge, MA; 2011-11-14.jpg
Clover Food Lab's restaurant in Harvard Square

Clover Food Lab's trucks and restaurants have minimalist, somewhat industrial design, and include elements that give them the look and feel of a laboratory. [7] The sides and walls are plain white, menus are written on whiteboards with black dry-erase marker, and the restaurants are brightly lit and have mostly stool seating. The kitchen has "a pop-up quality, as if the crew is here temporarily, planning to relocate elsewhere." [10] Staff enter customer orders and process credit and debit cards through an iPod touch system, and give change from their money belts instead of cash registers.

Minimalism movements in various forms of art and design

In visual arts, music, and other mediums, minimalism is an art movement that began in post–World War II Western art, most strongly with American visual arts in the 1960s and early 1970s. Prominent artists associated with minimalism include Donald Judd, John McCracken, Agnes Martin, Dan Flavin, Robert Morris, Anne Truitt, and Frank Stella. It derives from the reductive aspects of modernism and is often interpreted as a reaction against abstract expressionism and a bridge to postminimal art practices.

Laboratory Facility that provides controlled conditions in which scientific or technological research, experiments, and measurement may be performed.

A laboratory is a facility that provides controlled conditions in which scientific or technological research, experiments, and measurement may be performed. Laboratory services are provided in a variety of settings: physicians offices, clinics, hospitals, and regional and national referral centers.

Whiteboard surface for nonpermanent markings

A whiteboard is a glossy, usually white surface for nonpermanent markings. Whiteboards are analogous to blackboards, but with a smoother surface allowing rapid marking and erasing of markings on their surface. The popularity of whiteboards increased rapidly in the mid-1990s and they have become a fixture in many offices, meeting rooms, school classrooms, and other work environments.


Clover Food Lab's BLT sandwich uses soy bacon, [10] and has been cited as the best BLT sandwich in Boston by Mayor Thomas Menino. [4] The company was a winner of the Food Truck Challenge, [11] a competition initiated by Menino to bring healthy mobile food vending to Boston, which has led to a rising trend in the city in the use of food and coffee trucks. [12] Clover Food Lab was named one of the top 10 food trucks in the United States by The Wall Street Journal , [1] and given the 2011 Best of Boston award for vegetarian food by The Improper Bostonian . [2] The company was one of several food truck services highlighted by The Huffington Post for its intense use of technology (especially social media), distinctive product, and cult-like following. [13] In 2016, it was named the best farm-to-table restaurant in Massachusetts by Travel + Leisure. [3]

BLT Bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich

A BLT is a type of sandwich, named for the initials of its primary ingredients, bacon, lettuce and tomato. It can be made with varying recipes according to personal preference. Simple variants include using different types of lettuce, toasting or not, or adding mayonnaise. More pronounced variants can include using turkey bacon or tofu in place of bacon, or removing the lettuce entirely.

Vegetarian bacon

Vegetarian bacon, also referred to as veggie bacon, vacon, or facon, is a product marketed as a bacon alternative. It is high in protein and fiber, yet low in fat, and has no cholesterol. Two slices average 75 calories. Brands include Morningstar Farms and Smart Bacon.

Thomas Menino 53rd mayor of Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Thomas Michael Menino was an American politician who served as the 53rd Mayor of Boston, Massachusetts from 1993 to 2014. He was the city's longest-serving mayor. Before becoming mayor, the Boston native was a member and President of the Boston City Council.

Pay What You Want Day

Typically held on the first day of operations of a new Clover location, Pay What You Want Day allows the area to get to know the food and for the staff to work out their pace. [14] In 2015, Pay What You Want Day was experienced in Central Square with the opening of CloverHFI. [15] The restaurant continues operations for 24 hours, which maintains the tradition of the restaurant it replaced.

Central Square, Cambridge United States historic place

Central Square is an area in Cambridge, Massachusetts centered on the junction of Massachusetts Avenue, Prospect Street and Western Avenue. Lafayette Square, formed by the junction of Massachusetts Avenue, Columbia Street, Sidney Street and Main Street, is also considered a part of the Central Square area. Harvard Square is to the northwest along Massachusetts Avenue, Inman Square is to the north along Prospect Street and Kendall Square is to the east along Main Street. The section of Central Square along Massachusetts Avenue between Clinton Street and Main Street is designated the Central Square Historic District, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.

In 2016, Clover Food Lab opened the doors to three new locations and one food truck all featuring Pay What You Want Day. [16] [17] All proceeds made during the openings were donated to The Food Project.

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James Kenji López-Alt, known as Kenji, is an American chef and food writer.


  1. 1 2 Chung, Juliet; Wingfield, Nick; et al. (June 5, 2009). "The Truck Stops Here: 10 Top Food Trucks in The U.S." Wall Street Journal. Retrieved November 13, 2011.
  2. 1 2 "Boston's Best Food & Drink 2011". The Improper Bostonian. Retrieved November 12, 2011.
  3. 1 2 Matison, Lauren (May 10, 2016). "The Best Farm-to-table Restaurant in Every State". Travel + Leisure . Retrieved 23 April 2018.
  4. 1 2 Landrigan, Kelly (October 24, 2011). "Menino looks toward a healthier Boston in kicking off Food Day". The Daily Free Press. Retrieved November 12, 2011.
  5. "Locations and hours -Clover Food Lab". Clover Food Lab. Archived from the original on 13 January 2013. Retrieved 11 January 2015.
  6. 1 2 3 4 Kalin, Sari (November–December 2010). "Everything will be different tomorrow". Technology Review . Retrieved November 13, 2011.
  7. 1 2 Chang, Lian Chikako (February 4, 2011). "Because you can't eat architecture". Boston Society of Architects. Retrieved November 13, 2011.
  8. Bettex, Morgan (January 13, 2010). "Even in the cold, Clover is hot". MIT News. Retrieved November 13, 2011.
  9. Johnston, Susan (March 8, 2011). "Clover Food Lab Does the Impossible" . Retrieved November 13, 2011.
  10. 1 2 Julian, Sheryl (February 16, 2011). "An experiment in building better food". The Boston Globe. Retrieved November 13, 2011.
  11. "Food Truck Challenge". City of Boston. 2011. Archived from the original on November 3, 2011. Retrieved November 12, 2011.
  12. Al Hmoud, Mounira (October 28, 2011). "Getting coffee on the go in Allston, thanks to food trucks". The Boston Globe . Retrieved November 12, 2011.
  13. Waters, Joe (November 5, 2011). "What Nonprofits Can Learn From The Food Truck Craze". The Huffington Post. Retrieved November 12, 2011.
  14. "Clover will donate all proceeds from its Downtown Crossing opening on Tuesday". 2016-01-21. Retrieved 2016-11-11.
  15. "The First 24-Hour Restaurant in Cambridge Opens Today with Free Sandwiches". BostInno. Retrieved 2016-11-11.
  16. Hatic, Dana (2016-01-22). "Pay What You Want for Clover DTX's Opening Day". Eater Boston. Retrieved 2016-11-11.
  17. "CloverNEW opening: Pay What You Want on Wednesday June 1, 11am-2pm - Clover Food Lab". Retrieved 2016-11-11.

Further reading