In the year and 5 months since going public, Organic to Go has done nothing but move up as it builds a top-notch natural and organic menu.
“The idea of pizza might not seem very healthful,” said Chief Executive Officer Jason Brown, in talking about the 160-unit chain's belief that food is fuel. “But if it's organic dough, organic vegetables, organic cheese and organic tomato sauce, you're going to get purer ingredients that are better for your body.”
Based in Seattle, Organic To Go became the nation's first fast-casual cafe chain to be certified as an organic retailer, with locations in Seattle, Los Angeles, San Diego and Orange County, Calif. And that's just one of several fronts the company occupies. Both stand-alone and in-line cafes serve multiple dayparts in cities, airports, corporate campuses and colleges. There's a strong wholesale business, and a lucrative corporate catering division brings in 40% of revenue. In all endeavors, organic ingredients are used whenever possible, and all food items are always natural and free of harmful chemicals such as antibiotics, growth hormones and pesticides.
“You really need to have the depth of commitment, to provide variety, because people will see right through it,” observed Brown. “There's no way to ‘organic-wash’ them.”
So far, the chain pretty much has the organic fast-casual niche to itself, and that's fine by Brown. Revenues for calendar year 2007 increased 65% to $15.9 million. In the first half of this year, the company further penetrated Seattle with the acquisition of a smaller competitor, opened inside San Diego International Airport and expanded into the Washington, D.C., area. More locations in the Northeast are also being planned.