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Green Business Ideas: Healthy Fast Food

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In a culture battling record rates of obesity and health problems related to diet and nutrition, providing healthier food options can not only form the basis of a viable green business idea, but can also serve a growing market of people that still want to eat out, but want to make healthy fast food choices to support their lifestyle.

When we think of the term ‘fast food’, we probably don’t associate the word healthy with it, but it is certainly possible to create healthy fast foods that are quick to prepare and affordable to buy, especially in a time like now, when the popularity of food trucks is rising.

1. What is healthy fast food?

Italian cuisine conjures up images of lasagna and linguini.  French?  Ratatouille.  Mexican?  Tacos.  American?  Would it be a stretch to say that fast food most represents American cuisine?  It is perhaps sad, but true, that fast food is perhaps the first image conjured up in many people’s minds.  And while that type of fare is hardly the kind of thing you might find in a website about social entrepreneurship with its myriad health, environmental, and social problems, rest assured.  There is a better way.  Pioneers like Amanda’s Restaurant in Berkeley, California, have shown that fast food can be healthy, affordable, and eco-friendly.  The menu includes things like garden burgers, baked sweet potato fries, and locally sourced, humanely raised meats.

The market for healthy fast food can be quite large, and looks to be growing rapidly.  For evidence, look at recent trends in fast food.  KFC recently unveiled its baked chicken concept, trying to steer clear of trans fat oils, which are gaining a well-deserved reputation for negative health effects.  Wendy’s similarly announced plans to cut all use of trans fats cooking methods.  McDonald’s introduced a range of ready-to-go salads and marketed them to busy young women who want healthier fast food options.  But as of yet, none of these chains has mastered the combination of flavor, freshness, and price the way a local business like Amanda’s has, mainly because their business models rely on huge economies of scale to mass-deliver meals that look exactly the same in Wichita as they do in Dallas.  Locally owned businesses, therefore, could have an advantage in their ability to purchase locally, and get the freshest ingredients possible for their menu items.

2. What required knowledge or skills are necessary to open a healthy fast food place?

Food service experience is helpful to have to begin a healthy fast food restaurant.  The menu is relatively simple, so food prep skills are fairly basic, but you’d save yourself a lot of time and money if you come in ready to hit the ground running.

3. How much money is required to start?

$$-$$$   (on a scale of $ to $$$$$) The overhead costs for renting a space to open a restaurant will probably have to include renovations to suit your business, which may require more refrigeration units or food prep accessories. And while renting or leasing a brick-and-mortar location for your healthy fast food business is one option, opening a mobile food truck that serves healthier lunch and dinner options can be a cheaper investment.

4. What is the income potential?

$$$-$$$$   (on a scale of $ to $$$$$) A healthy fast food restaurant can have a great income potential, but like the saying goes, it’s all about location, location, location. Being in a popular area, especially one with a lot of foot traffic or that caters to a good number of workers for breakfast and lunch, is a big plus for this business. In addition to walk-ins, a healthy fast food business can also cultivate a catering clientele, which can add significantly to the bottom line.

5. What is the best location for a healthy fast food restaurant?

Urban (best), semi-urban (very good), suburbs (good), rural (poor).

6.  Three best questions to ask yourself to find out if this business is right for you (if you can answer yes to all three, this business might be for you):

  • Are you a good manager of people?  This business will likely require you to coordinate several helpers during busy periods.
  • Do you have a passion for healthy food?
  • Are you well-organized enough to prepare an array of foods and keep them ready for a client rush (i.e., lunch hour)?


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