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HT Talks Tech with Crisp & Green

Crisp & Green's goal is to create an approachable environment for all with healthy meal options and complimentary wellness classes onsite.
Crisp and Green exterior Wayzata
Crisp & Green's goal is to create an approachable environment for all through exceptional products and world-class hospitality. 
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Hospitality Technology (HT) caught up with Steele Smiley, founder and Executive Chairman of Crisp & Green, to learn about this fast casual concept and the technology behind it. After seeing success in Minnesota, the fast casual concept is expanding; it celebrated the grand opening of its NYC location on June 1.  The company is on track to have 65 franchise locations in 20 states by the end of the year.

HT: Tell me about the concept Crisp & Green.   

Steele Smiley, founder and Executive Chairman of Crisp & Green: I founded CRISP & GREEN with the belief that nourishing a healthy lifestyle goes beyond the kitchen. Our focus is an equal blend of healthy and nutritious foods, community engagement and complimentary fitness to create the “Living Crisp” movement. Our goal is to create an approachable environment for all through exceptional products and world-class hospitality. 

HT: How did it come about? 

Smiley:  Before founding CRISP & GREEN, I developed a deep passion for health and wellness as a fitness entrepreneur. I was constantly traveling and realized it was difficult to eat healthy while on the go. I couldn’t believe there were no nutritious and convenient restaurants around, so I decided to create one!  

The approximate size of CRISP & GREEN restaurants varies depending on geographic location. Our smallest location is in an airport and is around 800 square feet, while our largest location is around 4,000 sq ft. The average location size is around 2,000 square feet.  

Crsip and Green salads

HT: What are a couple of the best-selling items?  

Smiley:  One of our most popular offerings is the Fiesta Grain Bowl. It’s perfect for people who want to eat healthy but aren’t the biggest fans of salads, because it’s fresh and filling! Topped with homemade dressing and salsa, it’s full of flavor.  Our seasonal salads and grain bowls, which we rotate three to five times per year, are typically fan-favorites because everyone wants to try our limited-time, chef-curated creations.

HT: How has the store footprint changed recently?   

Smiley:  Our store footprints are becoming more strategic as we grow across the country and enter new markets. We have a general footprint that we aim to find, but our top priority is finding the right space in the right area of town. If we find the perfect location, we’ll make it work no matter the footprint.  

HT: How do customers order?  How has the guest experience changed?  Both for onsite, off-prem customers?   

Smiley:  Before the pandemic, online orders made up only 7% of sales, but during the pandemic, they skyrocketed to 70%. Since then, we’ve seen online ordering become commonplace, averaging out at around 50% of our orders coming via our app or website. 

HT: How has online ordering evolved?  Is there a mobile app integrated with loyalty? 

Smiley:  Customer loyalty is incredibly important to us and our mobile app is a great way to reward our loyal fanbase. One of our key pillars is creating community, and encouraging loyalty and repeat visits is one way to do that. For every 10 salads ordered through the app, customers receive a free salad. We love rewarding our customers for their support and impeccable taste for healthy, convenient food!  

HT: How are you gleaning actionable insights from your data? 

Smiley:  As we grow and enter new markets, we are taking note of the different tastes and preferences in each region. It’s interesting to see which items are popular in different markets, and understanding what that tells us about those customers. This data is used by our guest services team and franchisees to deliver tailored messages based on the market or a customer’s specific habits.  

HT: Do you have kiosks or plan to add them?   

Smiley:  We have kiosks in our airport location, which is beneficial given the fast ticket times and small footprint. Above all, we aim to integrate technologies that benefit the guest experience, so we’ll use kiosks where they make sense, and lean into our top-tier guest service where that makes sense. 

HT: What’s on your tech to-do list for 2023?   

Smiley:  We have a lot of franchise growth slated for the remainder of 2023, so our goal is to find technologies that best support our franchisees and make their jobs easier. Whether that’s better data analysis, customer insights reports or leveraging reviews, we are constantly motivated to improve our franchisees’ jobs with the integration of new technologies.  

HT: When it comes to workforce, how are you using technology to reduce friction in their environment and experience? 

Smiley:  Since online orders account for half of our business, we are always searching for more efficient ways to utilize technology while still being user-friendly for all restaurant employees. 

HT: Are you leveraging gamification to help onboard staff? 

Smiley:  We are interested in exploring gamification further to see how it can improve our employee experience, both when they’re on-boarding and once they are fully integrated staff members. 

HT: Regarding benefits, do you offer daily pay / flexible scheduling?   

Smiley:  Yes, we work with our employees to create flexible schedules that accommodate their requests and preferred hours. We believe in work-life balance and encourage our team members to focus on their physical and mental health outside of work.  

HT: What are your employees looking for?   

Smiley:  CRISP & GREEN employees are excited to engage with their community and provide meaningful interactions with customers. For many of our employees, this is their first job, so they are looking to gain invaluable industry experience, like customer service, food safety, front and back-of-house processes and more. For those first-time employees, this is their first interaction with the real world and many different kinds of people. 

HT: How is Crisp & Green marketing the brand? What’s next on this front?  Social media? NFTS? Radio networks?   

Smiley:  We market CRISP & GREEN as a well-rounded brand that offers nourishing, great-tasting food and a community of like-minded, wellness-focused individuals. We don’t want to just be a restaurant – we want to provide a space where people can connect with one another and fuel their lives in more ways than just food. We host monthly wellness events at all restaurants, which typically include a free workout class led by a local fitness professional. These events introduce CRISP & GREEN to new people and invite them to try the brand. 

Our social media presence is a huge focus in terms of marketing, as our Instagram following has almost grown to 100,000. We’re excited to dive more into TikTok and grow our community on that platform as well. 

HT: What's next that you can tell me about?   

Smiley:  CRISP & GREEN is expanding to new markets across the U.S. Before the end of this year, we are slated to reach 65 locations in 20 states. By the end of 2024, our footprint will reach a total of 130 locations. Our new NoMad location in New York City was a huge milestone for the brand, as it marked our 10th state and put our brand in the center of one of the largest cities in the world! 

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