Vegan Foods

Amy’s drive-thru owners reinvent fast food as vegetarian, healthy and tasty

Do you see fast food as a bad treat for you? Well think again if you stop by Amy’s Drive Thru, the first organic vegetarian fast food restaurant in the United States. Sure, delicious burgers are on the menu, but they’re all plant-based. You’ll find milkshakes galore made with plant-based milks and other delicious ingredients, and healthier versions of fast food classics like chili fries, macaroni and cheese, and burritos are all served. days.

Amy’s Drive Thru was created by Rachel and Andy Berliner, the married duo who also founded Amy’s Kitchen in the 1980s. This business has thrived for decades and is now the leading manufacturer of vegetarian and vegan frozen foods. It looks like Amy’s Drive Thru is set for a similar level of success. Andy Berliner answered some of our questions about this vibrant restaurant and the future of this vegan business.

What inspired you to launch your now iconic vegetarian brand?

I was never much of a cook, so when Rachel was pregnant with Amy, I went to our local natural grocery store to find organic vegetarian options prepared. I’ve found nothing. What I found tasted awful and was not organic. We felt there must be other people like us who wanted convenient food without preservatives, chemicals, and additives. From the start, our motivation was to respond to the need for practical, organic, tasty vegetarian food. We had to create this because it didn’t exist.

Have you always been passionate about food?

Before starting Amy’s, I started and sold a brand of herbal teas. My brother owned a Chicago pizza place in Petaluma, and my dad produced chocolates and toffees for a Chicago department store. So cooking has always been a passion and a big part of my life.

Rachel grew up in Compton, California, tending an organic garden as a child. Rachel’s love for real, fresh and organic food is rooted in what we do at Amy’s.

What inspired you to launch Amy’s Drive Thru? When did the first drive open?

Since we started Amy’s Kitchen, people have asked us to open a restaurant, a place where they could feel really good to bring their families, where they could enjoy everything on the menu knowing that everything is organic and vegetarian. We have heard it over and over again. Six years ago, we were able to answer the call and open our first restaurant in Rohnert Park, California. It has been difficult but fun to create a whole new menu just for the Drive Thru using our years of experience in the organic food space. Our long-standing relationships with farmers and producers have enabled us to do this.

How did people react?

We were nervous the first day no one showed up, but we ended up with a line of cars wrapped around the block. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. From day one it was clear that we had something special and that there was a real need for better fast food for you, more than we could even have predicted.

How can fans of your frozen food expect to be different at the drive-thru? Do you serve dishes from frozen meals in the restaurant?

We’re the premier organic and vegetarian drive-thru, serving American classics like burgers, fries and shakes in addition to freshly made salads, burritos and pizzas. The food is unique to Drive Thru, so these aren’t the same Amy’s Kitchen meals you’ll find in the grocery store. But it’s the same great taste and quality that Amy’s is known for.

How did you decide which burger would be “The Amy”?

“The Amy” is a classic veggie and grain based veggie burger patty topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, and special Fred Sr. sauce. We spent a lot of time perfecting it. It took us over three years and about 1,000 test runs. Our R&D kitchen is next to our maintenance shop in Santa Rosa, so we chose a group of self-proclaimed fast food enthusiasts, who worked there, as our taste testing group. Once they started asking when the next tasting was going to be, we knew we were on to something.

What are some of your favorite vegan drive-thru food?

Our burger and non-dairy chocolate shake are two of my favorites. We also have delicious salads made with fresh, local ingredients.

Can all dishes be personalized to be vegan? Do you see Amy’s Drive Thru going completely vegan in the future?

Anything we serve at Amy’s Drive Thru can be vegan or gluten-free. It can create a challenge in the kitchen, but people appreciate that we respond to them and we believe that everyone should be able to enjoy this type of food. This is why we remain faithful to our mission.

When it comes to the future of Amy’s Kitchen and Amy’s Drive Thru, we listen to our consumers and customers. They really help shape our evolution. Over 60% of Amy’s Kitchen meals and soups are now 100% plant-based, and we continue to provide more plant-based alternatives to our best-selling products while working on new recipes that are also plant-based. of plants.

What’s your vegan or vegetarian story?

Rachel and I became vegetarians because of our shared concern for animal rights in the 1960s and 1970s. We quickly realized that most of the flavors we enjoy come from plants, and there was nothing to do with it. lose by avoiding meat. When we decided to launch Amy’s, we thought it was important that our products share our food values, and so we have always been and always will be a vegetarian food company.

Are all meals nutritionally balanced?

We cook with real organic ingredients, lots of vegetables and grains. Combining rice and beans in products like our burrito results in whole protein. Everything is vegetarian or plant-based, naturally, so these are nutritious foods that you can happily eat and serve your family.

How do you go about planning meals?

We are unique in that product development is not based on market trends or anchored in consumer data. It usually starts with an idea or something that we have tasted that inspires us to recreate it for our consumers. Rachel is our official Recipe Taster and helps refine the recipe once it’s under development. We all do our taste tests around our kitchen table, the same table we tasted in the early to late 80s. If a meal doesn’t taste enough to be served to our friends around our table to eat, we will not go ahead.

Beyond Amy’s Drive Thru and Amy’s Kitchen dishes, what are some tips for new vegans wondering how to eat well?

It’s an exciting time to be a vegan. There are so many options now, and vegan doesn’t mean eliminating flavor and ingredients. I would say it’s still exciting. Try out different foods and flavors so you don’t get stuck in a rut. Some of my favorite vegan dishes come from other parts of the world, like India and Thailand, where the flavors and spices are plentiful.

How do you see the future of veganism?

It has been amazing to see how much interest and enthusiasm for veganism and plant-based eating has grown in the past year alone. People eat for their health and well-being and for the health of our planet, and they see a vegan diet as the way to solve both. We’ve been making vegan meals since the late 80s when it was on the fringes, but now plant-based dishes are common and are only gaining traction. I think it will continue. When we look at the younger generations, they are the ones fueling this excitement and the majority are making their own decisions to omit animal protein. Food manufacturers and suppliers will respond to these young consumers and will develop and evolve their vegan and plant portfolios to meet growing demand. It is exciting and necessary for the future of our planet.

Do you have a favorite restaurant where you like to eat?

Greens in San Francisco is one of my favorites. Rachel and I also eat a lot of our meals at Amy’s Drive Thru. We love the food and having the chance to meet and talk with our customers.

I know many vegans who are heartbroken that vegan pie was put on hold during the pandemic. Will he come back?

The short answer is yes. We know our consumers miss vegan pot pie, and we’re so sorry we had to halt production on it. The pandemic has put a strain on our production, mainly because of the way we cook. Much of our cooking is done by hand in real kitchens, forcing our team members to stick together. In order to protect our employees, we had to halt production on things that did not allow social distancing. We are now coming to a better place and catching up with the increased demand. I don’t have a specific timeline yet, but the products our consumers love, including the pie, are coming back to market.

What’s next for Amy’s Kitchen and Amy’s Drive Thru?

Amy’s Drive Thru is growing rapidly. Right now, we have three new locations underway, from Sacramento to LA, and plan to open 25-30 new locations along the West Coast over the next five years.

Amy’s Kitchen is back to full capacity and we are getting closer every day. We work hard to get all of our products on the shelves for our consumers who depend on us for them. At the same time, we have some new recipes to launch once we’re fully back to full capacity, and we have some really delicious items in the works.

It is an exciting time for both companies. People eat for their health and that of our planet. They want nutritious, convenient, organic, plant-based and vegetarian foods, and that’s what we do and always have done. We are deeply committed to feeding people and caring for our planet through our business. And as Amy’s continues to grow, the positive impact we make will also increase.

There are currently three sites for Amy’s drive. In addition to the original location in Rohnert Park, Calif., Which is still in operation, you can find one in Corte Madera, Calif., And one in the Harvey Milk terminal at the San Francisco airport.