With its health-focused, fast-casual concept and cleverly named menu items—the No Prob Cobb salad, the Get Your Greek On grain bowl, the Purple Rain smoothie—Crisp & Green has built a loyal following.
Now, the fast-growing, locally founded health food restaurant—which first landed in Wayzata a little over a year ago and has a North Loop location to boot—is getting ready to open two new eateries this summer, one in Dinkytown and another at 50th and France in Edina. And more are on the way.
“It’s neat to see this brand attracting all ages, all demographics. Everybody wants to be a part of the product,” says CEO Steele Smiley.
Smiley’s perhaps best known around town for his Steele Fitness brand, the largest privately held personal training business in the U.S., which was acquired by Snap Fitness in 2013.
Crisp & Green was a natural progression of his fitness background. “One of the challenges that you have with the workout business is you can only affect that singular hour that you’re working with the client,” he says. “With Crisp & Green, I get the chance to help people make great food choices to help them reach their goals when they’re not working out. That’s why this business is very exciting to me; it’s an opportunity to teach people to eat wonderful food every day.”
The company prides itself on its fresh, hand-crafted, chef-curated, affordable food that makes people “feel great,” Smiley says. Customers can customize their meals with build-your-own greens or grains. Beverage-wise, Crisp & Green boasts kombucha on tap, agua fresca, and house-made black iced tea. And for those craving something sweet, the company even offers a vegan and gluten-free version of a Rice Krispies treat. Everything is handmade and prepped in-store every day (the one exception is the bread, which is produced by a local company).
For health-conscious eaters, it’s a welcome reprieve from the grocery store to-go case or the bread-centric Subway. Smiley says consumers expect more from health food these days; they want it to be reasonably priced, delicious, and made from scratch. Crisp & Green aspires to do all that and be just as efficient as its fast-casual competitors: Smiley says guests are in and out within 10 minutes.
And it isn’t just about the food. Smiley says that for a brand to be successful, it has to become a positive, affirmational place people want to be, in addition to providing exceptional food and service. Essentially, Crisp & Green is a lifestyle brand, and Smiley wants to grow it like one. Hence, a newly launched franchise program, which aims to bottle the appealing elements of Crisp & Green and teach its strategies for success to others through ambassadors. This will allow the company to expand beyond Minnesota, though Smiley stresses that he’s less concerned with which markets the company enters and how fast they enter them than he is about the quality of the partnerships. “We’ll source our partnerships just the same way that we source our ingredients: We’re going to be very selective and make sure that it’s authentic to our brand and make sure that it’s the same values,” he says.
Interested parties are assigned an ambassador with whom they meet face-to-face to share a salad and share their goals. “We can’t stress enough that we’re looking for people that share the same values system as us. This brand was started and continues to carry the torch of teaching people to make great food choices and teaching people how to live a healthy, active lifestyle, and that’s our mission,” Smiley says. Hundreds of people have already submitted franchise inquiries.
Until those partnerships come to fruition, local eaters can look forward to the two already-in-the-works locations opening this summer. The Dinkytown branch will serve the brand’s “huge millennial fanbase that has chosen to eat healthy,” Smiley says. “It’s a part of their fabric. It’s part of their DNA. They wake up every day and make good food choices.”
Meanwhile, the 50th and France location is an area where Smiley has operated investments before. “We love that market,” he says. “We know the customer. That feels like going home, honestly. I think everyone expected us to go into Edina.”
As the company expands to other states, the menu may vary slightly from market to market depending on seasonal availability of ingredients. But the healthy living ethos? That’ll remain the same.
“There’s going to be a large wave of reemerging health-oriented options for the next 10 years,” Smiley says. “We’re very excited to be leading this wave.”