Clean Eatz has been open 10 years and is on track to have 100 units by the end of the year, and it’s never expanded its hours — perhaps a surprise considering it’s only open 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. on weekdays and 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. on weekends.
Why the short hours on weekends, which is when restaurants typically make their money?
“We found that our customers, we [need to] give them a break. And we're like, ‘You've eaten with us for six days, the weekend should be your cheat meal. So, go get your pizza and we'll be back on Monday,’” said Evonne Varady, co-founder of Clean Eatz.
Clean Eatz is a healthful concept meant to center around clean eating.
Its weekday hours were set for self-proclaimed “selfish” reasons from Varady, a gym lover and former body builder.
“Everyone asked how we get our hours and all that, and … we were really just selfish. Like we wanted to go to the gym,” she told Nation’s Restaurant News.
On Fridays, the corporate team works out together at the brand’s headquarters in Wilmington, NC. It’s been a helpful recruiting tactic for the restaurants.
“You know, a lot of the restaurant industry … some of these guys don't get out of [work] until three o'clock in the morning. And when they do, [they eat] a burger and french fries. You know, the hours are pretty attractive [at Clean Eatz] and it makes it easier for them to hire staff,” she continued, since Clean Eatz employees tend to focus on clean eating and exercise in their personal lives.
Varady said that many franchise owners and partners run 5K races with their staff, and they’re being fueled by the food at Clean Eatz.
“Everyone always thinks that we're such a fast casual, but really … we call ourselves a lifestyle café,” said Varady.
Varady and her husband Don founded the brand that, in addition to full meals, offers a branded meal kit with prepared and prepackaged meals that can either be thrown into the microwave or the oven for easy access.
“We get lumped into all the other Hello Freshers and all those others, but … by the time you cook it, clean it and prepare it you’ve already lost almost an hour,” said Varady, referring to popular “meal kit” companies.
The kits from Clean Eatz are almost instant, just needing to be microwaved, and are available in keto, low carb, bulk, weight loss and high protein. Each meal is $7.99.
For dine-in customers, meal options include wraps, flatbreads and bowls.
“So the concept is a little bit different because what is served fresh cannot be reheated and eaten at a later time,” she said.
Years ago, Varady was training women at the gym and wondering why they weren’t losing weight when she realized that the small town they were in only had fast food. It’s what inspired her to eventually open her first café, which was later rebranded to Clean Eatz.
The initial idea for the café stemmed from creating a meal kit for women in Varady’s training group to have quick, healthy meals on the go.
The Varadys, early in their dating history, decided to rebrand the café to make it more appealing to men as well as women. The pair has recently gotten into bodybuilding and were on two pieces of equipment when they decided to brainstorm names for the refreshed concept.
Separately, they both came up with Clean Eats(z). Evonne wanted the “z” at the end, and she won.
“We wanted to spell it with a ‘z’ because we're like, ‘It's different. Nobody else is doing that, nobody else will be able to replicate it or change it,’” Don told NRN.
“Everyone thought we were crazy, though, like there is no way you can make money from making chicken, broccoli and rice for people. They thought we were nuts and 10 years later, here we are,” said Evonne.
Clean Eatz has 74 cafes plans to have 100 open by the end of the year.
“Everyone always says like, what's your five-year plan? ‘Put McDonald's out of business.’ So, I think we're off to a good start,” Evonne said. “We have a lot more work to do in this thing, but I mean, that's my mission: to stop obesity, one pound at a time.”