Should Fast Food Chains Fear the Rise of The Organic Coup?

Organic Coup

Fast food is a longstanding part of American culture. It combines three of our favorite things into one: greasy eats, a good price, and the ability to order our meal from the comfort of a vehicle. However, fast food has taken a bit of a hit in the press in the past decade, as studies about the food’s inherent unhealthiness and impact on our long-term wellness have cast it in a negative light.

And then there are the financials which aren’t heading in the right direction for the fast food industry. McDonald’s, the largest fast food corporation, has seen declining revenues in the past two years. According to Statistica, after peaking at a revenue of $28.11 billion in 2013, McDonald’s earned $27.44 billion in 2014 and $25.41 billion in 2015.

More recently, though, there’s been a new concept developing in the fast food industry: organic fast food. While individual organic fast food restaurants have popped up in more progressive cities and urban areas across the country, it’s only recently that a chain has started. Called The Organic Coup, it’s looking to revolutionize how we look at fast food, and some fans think it has a good shot at doing just that.

About The Organic Coup

The first organic fast food chain in America, The Organic Coup, has the backing of Costco founder and former CEO Jim Sinegal, as well as Costco’s current CFO Richard Galanti. It currently offers two main specialties: spicy fried chicken sandwiches and caramel popcorn drizzled with chocolate. Eventually, the restaurant hopes to expand its menu to include other items like tater tots and breakfast burritos. Of course, all of the food is 100% organic.

Will this concept work? Will organic fast food really take off? Business Insider seems to think so: it recently named the chain one of the top 33 companies that are revolutionizing retail. Indeed, every company has to start somewhere, and with all of the negative press surrounding conventional fast food, The Organic Coup may be poised for tremendous growth.

An Unhealthy History

Let’s face it: regular fast food has always been the cheap option, and it’s always been the convenient option, but it’s never been the healthy option. The food is highly processed, and the companies that serve it have little regard for what it does to human health.

What’s more, attempts by the major fast food chains to introduce healthier options have, for the most part failed. McDonald’s may have salads on the menu, for example, but people who go there mostly go for the Big Macs and fries.

The Organic Coup, and organic fast food in general, flies in the face of everything conventional fast food stands for, and that’s why a lot of people are skeptical about its ability to succeed. Still, many are hopeful that organic fast food represents a real change in the industry.

New Implications

There’s a whole new potential audience for organic fast food. For example, there are the people who appreciate the convenience of fast food, but balk at the unhealthy ingredients. There are also those people who try to eat mostly organic produce and hormone-free meat, but who have not really had any options when it comes to fast food. A restaurant chain like The Organic Coup would have great appeal for these consumers.

While it’s true that fast food and fast casual chains like Subway, Chipotle, and Panera have tried to appeal to consumers’ healthier sensibilities, and while they do offer some healthy and less greasy options, there are still some concerns. The bread at both Subway and Panera has been shown to contain some questionable ingredients, and Chipotle was recently ridden with an E. Coli outbreak and all the bad press that goes along with that. The Organic Coup is 100% organic, and its food does not contain any odd preservatives or ingredients with chem lab-sounding names.

The Money Issue

One legitimate concern about eating at The Organic Coup that’s bound to come up is the cost. As anyone who attempts to purchase and eat mostly organic food can tell you, buying organic typically costs more than buying non-organic. The food at The Organic Coup is substantially more expensive than an burger, taco, or sandwich at a conventional fast food joint: their chicken sandwich, for example, costs $9.99. For comparison, the price of a chicken sandwich at McDonald’s is just $3.99 — less than half the price. This eliminates the affordability advantage.

Business practices at The Organic Coup are also modeled on those of Costco, including paying employees a good wage. Workers at The Organic Coup make between $14 and $16 per hour, which is much more than the minimum wage earned by many fast food counter workers and burger slingers. It’s great if you’ve got a job at The Organic Coup, and it’s great if you’re an advocate of paying employees a living wage. However, those high wages could be seen by many skeptics as contributing to the high cost of the food, and that could keep customers away.

Can You Cop Some Coup?

If you’re interested in organic fast food and are willing to cough up the requisite ten bucks for a spicy fried chicken sandwich, The Organic Coup has two locations already open in California: one is in Pleasanton, and the other is in San Francisco. A third store in Pleasant Hill should be open soon.

Not on the west coast? You’ll have to wait for your first taste of The Organic Coup, but maybe not for very long. The company has big plans for expansion, and thanks to investments from the aforementioned Costco elite, the goal is to open more than twenty new outlets in the next few years. If you’re in or near a major US city, you might soon get your chance to check out this organic fast food concept and decide for yourself if it really is the industry’s newest direction, or if it’s just a fad that will soon fizzle out.


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