The fast-food renovator
Everyone told her the idea was impossible.
“If this is possible, someone a lot smarter than you with access to a lot more money ... would have done this before,” a friend told Shannon Allen, who nine years ago set out to create a 100% certified organic fast-food restaurant.
Today, her organic restaurant concept, Grown, operates six locations in such settings as a university bookstore, a football stadium and a Walmart store. The menu features a broad assortment of nutrient-dense and allergen-friendly foods as grilled wild-caught salmon, cold-pressed juices and roasted garlic Brussel sprouts.
The premise is “real food, cooked slow, for fast people.” Ms. Allen created Grown to fulfill a personal need to feed her children healthier options on the go. Inspiration struck one desperate evening as she sought quick, nutritious food for her diabetic son, whose blood sugar was dangerously low.
“I started driving frantically through drive-thrus, looking for real food for my baby,” Ms. Allen recalled. “I didn’t want to give him a snack or anything processed. I wanted to give him dinner.
“What I realized in that moment is if you’re at a drive-thru window, that just doesn’t exist. You can’t get a whole free-range organic rotisserie chicken with two sides. You can’t get a freshly spun salad with all organic ingredients, or an acai bowl or a fresh-made smoothie without syrup.
“You can get soda. You can get french fries. You can get a taco with meat that has 98 ingredients and the first ingredient isn’t even meat. But you can’t get real food.”
In 2016, she opened her flagship location in Miami, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner with no microwaves or fryers and all organic ingredients.
“People ask, ‘What is Grown?’ and I always say, ‘Imagine if Starbucks and Whole Foods had a baby,’” Ms. Allen said.
“I believe Grown belongs in airports, hospital lobbies, busy stretches of highway, college campuses and sports arenas,” she said. “Just because we’re busy does not mean we have to compromise.”