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Alfalfa co-founders at the opening of the Alfalfa in Jersey City, N.J., from left: Dan Londono, Dan Sobsey, Andrew Arrospide, and Ben Sobsey.

Alfalfa strives for joy in the pursuit of balance

Farmer’s market-founded restaurant concept expands with an eye on quality and convenience.

Alfalfa, which started in 2018 as a tent-based outlet in the Hoboken, N.J., farmer’s market, continues six years later with brick-and-mortar restaurants on both coasts and an unwavering goal of “joy found in the pursuit of balance.”

Cofounders Andrew Arrospide, Daniel Londono and brothers Ben and Dan Sobsey grew up together in New Jersey, and each went off to pursue their own careers. They returned to produce salads at the farmer’s market.

After the first season in the farmer’s market, the owners of the ’30s-era diner called Schnackenberg’s offered the Alfalfa creators a pop-up opportunity, and then the offer to take over the space entirely. Thus, Alfalfa was born, morphing into a brick-and-mortar location and taking on a baker who specialized in gluten-free doughnuts.

“We first started as a salad concept,” Arrospide said. “We thought that naming it after a sprout made sense.”

Now Alfalfa has four locations open — two in New Jersey and two in California — with plans to add another soon in New Jersey. The company made the jump to the West Coast in 2020 when a location became available in Los Angeles.


Debuting salads in 2018 at the Hoboken, N.J., farmers’ market are Alfalfa cofounders, from left, Dan Sobsey, Dan Londono, and Andrew Arrospide.

Locations are open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. The menu is salads, wraps, doughnuts, breakfast burritos, coffees and teas.

“The best-seller on the menu is the Peruvian chicken,” Dan Sobsey said. “It’s one of our staples and we also recently launched a spicy Calabrian Caesar Wrap that's become an instant huge hit.” On the doughnut side, the lavender doughnut continues to be the best-seller, as it has been since day one.

“We make everything in house — no seed oils, no preservatives,” Sobsey said. “We source organic and local whenever we can, and we also love to do unique partnerships with up-and-coming creators and influencers.”

Arrospide, whose background before Alfalfa was sports marketing, said, “We wanted to really bring our backgrounds to the restaurant industry. One of the things that I worked a lot on was partnership marketing. We really wanted to leverage outside influencers to use Alfalfa as a space not only for them to share their story, but for them to also be able to share our message.”

That, he added, allows the brand to tap into a new audience but also develop fresh products that keep the customer base “engaged and energized.”

Londono, who was trained as an engineer and did consulting before helping launch Alfalfa, said real estate requirements are typically around the 1,500-square-foot footprint.

“Some of our locations are smaller than that,” he said. “We really have a huge focus on the customer experience, and that has led us to make decisions like not having a salad line in front of you when you walk in.”


The Alfalfa patio at the restaurant in Santa Monica, Calif.

Londono said Alfalfa has also embraced technology. “It's counter service, so you order with a person,” he said. “You can also order at the kiosk if you prefer. We actually have customers who are introverted and prefer to not talk to somebody. We will meet you where you want to be met.”

About 60% of sales are digital, either through the native smartphone app, the brand’s website, or third-party delivery platforms, he added.

Much of Alfalfa’s success, Londono said, is the concept’s “people proposition.”

“With more than 100 employees now,” he said, “we've always strived to be an amazing place to work. We knew early on that the restaurant industry is a people industry. At the end of the day, if you treat your people amazingly, your customers are going to have amazing products and experiences.”

He said the approach of hiring people for the jobs they want to do has led to “remarkably low” turnover for the Alfalfa teams.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]

Follow him on X/Twitter: @RonRuggless

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