In two weeks, an organic farmer at an undisclosed California potato patch will harvest the first crop of potatoes destined for the fryer in the kitchen at the soon-to-launch Amy’s Drive Thru restaurant in Rohnert Park, California. The fast food restaurant with a twist is the brainchild of Amy’s Kitchen, the popular frozen food and soup company.
It took two years, and thousands of pounds of potatoes, to find the right organic variety of potato for fresh-cut french fries cooked in sunflower oil. “Most businesses would go to a company and buy a bunch of frozen potatoes,” says John Paneno, Director of Sourcing at Amy’s Kitchen. “Amy’s started from scratch. We hired experts who could find the best varieties that met our sensory requirements. We had to figure out where they grew best and who is the best farmer to process them. We’re not taking any shortcuts.”
In late June, the meticulously sourced french fries will debut at the official launch of the first Amy’s Drive Thru.
Customers have asked the company’s owners to enter into the restaurant business for two decades, says co-founder and co-CEO Andy Berliner, who oversees the company with his wife, Rachel.
“About four years ago, we decided to do more of a traditional drive-through restaurant, but with organic, vegetarian, pesticide-free, and GMO-free food,” Berliner tells Civil Eats. The menu, which the company says is made with around 95 percent certified organic ingredients, will be familiar to fast food fans: burritos, pizza, shakes, chili, salads, and, of course, French fries.
Creating organic and good-tasting menu items has taken an inordinate amount of work. A task only compounded by the fact that all menu items will be available in regular, gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan configurations.
The price point is higher than most fast food, but inline with fast casual chains like Chipotle and Panera. Customers will be able to buy a meal for under $9 and have it delivered within three-and-a-half minutes, a key to drive-thru success.
It’s important to note that the Berliners avoid the term “healthy fast food.” “We’re not calling it healthy because we do use salt and oil,” says Rachel Berliner. “It wouldn’t sell if we weren’t frying it in oil. You have to reach a medium. It just tastes good and it’s clean.”
“Better-for-you,” is how her husband Andy puts it.