Wow. As local small business owners, we certainly learned yesterday that change is hard. We launched a new menu in all 4 of our locations and over the weekend remodeled our original Franklin location. Though it’s only been one day, we’ve heard some feedback from customers and we’d like to address it.
As humans, we are defined by the principles and beliefs with which we choose to live. This week, there are some folks who are questioning our Principles and Beliefs at Protein Bar regarding the menu changes we made. We know no better way to address them than to simply be honest, transparent, and clear as we have always aimed to do at Protein Bar. The trust that our customers put into us to help them lead the active, on-the-go lives is something we take very seriously—now, as always. We have never knowingly been fraudulent or negligent in our pricing nor our nutritional information—and it pains us that this how some people are feeling today as we launch an updated and expanded menu.
We wanted to take the time to address a few of the things we heard today directly with you:
- We have not shrunk our portioning sizes, measuring utensils, or bowl sizes on any items except for kalamata olives and blue cheese. Our signature quinoa bowls are simply served in another 16 oz bowl. We switched from a pulp bowl to a white paper bowl but the ingredients in the bowl are the same quality and portion as always. The new white bowls are just tall and narrow versus short and wide. And our salad bowls are now 16oz larger in the tall recyclable plastic bowl than they were in the 32oz pulp bowls. Both quinoa bowl and salad bowls are simply taller, slimmer, more durable, and easier to eat on the go.
- There has also been some question of our integrity regarding the nutrional information that has changed on some items. We have always aimed to provide the most accurate information we could find. With one locally-owned location open until just 7 months ago when we opened our second, then third, then fourth location, we used a less precise tool to calculate all of our totals. This is completely legal and—we thought—accurate. The government (FDA) calls this “reasonable basis.” In October, we hired a full-time chef with a long history in food research and development. The first thing he did was purchase a professional software program to complete our nutritionals. In doing so, we discovered that “reasonable basis” wasn’t as accurate as we strive for and moved forward with updating our menus. We have never aimed to be dishonest, hide anything, or mislead anyone. It was simply a widely used tool that we discovered wasn’t good enough for us. One thing to note is that although the calorie counts have increased on some items, they have gone down on several others. For example, the Healthy Parm bowl (-59 calories), Buffalo Salad (-56), and the Spinach & Pesto bowl (-24 calories).
- We changed the recipes of some of our menu items to deliver a better tasting product. We can understand how if you eat something several times per week it can be easy to get accustomed to a certain flavor. But with a chef on board, we feel our flavor has only improved and we hope you will give those items a chance to wow you. Similarly, we removed some menu items because after a hard look, we just didnt feel offered the nutritional balance of protein, good fat, and healthy carbs that we want to serve. In the end, these are moves we feel good about, even if it means in the short term we have some disappointed customers.
- The price increase on some of our menu items was solely in response to globally rising food costs. As we posted this week in our blog, the food industry has seen major price increases over the past year. We resisted the urge to raise prices in hoping they would subside, but they haven’t and we now had to pass those increases along. We’ve all seen this happen at the grocery store. Milk, eggs and cheese don’t cost what they used to. For example, just since June, prices have risen substantially on our most common ingredients such as black beans (+6.5%), steel-cut oats (14.4%), and romaine lettuce (8.2%). Again, we’re a small business. We don’t have the purchasing power of many of our larger competitors so we had to pass these costs along.
- For our customers of our Franklin location that came to visit us yesterday and saw we ”reversed our line”, we did this to make our Franklin location consistent with our three other locations. As any regular Franklin customer will attest to, the “pay last” model we had been employing since we opened on May 18, 2009 at its best would be described as “controlled chaos”. This location has seen a total of 8 remodels over the 2.5 years since we have opened. What originally was simply a protein smoothie shop serving 100 people a day is now a thriving restaurant with a large menu serving close to 700 people a day. When we opened our other locations last year, we did so with this new service model and found that most people prefer it as it allows greater order accuracy, a more pleasant ordering experience, and more time to ask questions about menu items. Because of that, we decided to make the switch at Franklin. Unfortunately, we had a few more first day kinks than we expected, and you, our customers, had to wait an extraordinarily long time to get lunch or dinner. For this we are truly sorry. We will continue to work with the team to make it more efficient and accurate.
For you—our customers whom we esteem higher than anything—we wanted to make sure you had the facts. Unadultered, unfluffed, and uncluttered by the distraction of naysayers.
We appreciate the feedback we have received from customers—both positive and less-than-positive. It’s feedback like this that will help us improve as a small business and keep continuing to serve nutritionally relevant items. We’re sorry to see some of you leave us because we have removed or changed one of your favorite menu items. We can assure you that if you try our new recipes or new items, you will find a favorite.
In good health,
Matt, Mike, Chef Phil and all of us at Protein Bar