Sometimes delicious, oftentimes expensive—plant-based fast-casual chain by CHLOE. offers a model to think critically about.
Chef Chloe Coscarelli’s award-winning raspberry tiramisu cupcake was my first introduction to by CHLOE., and it blew me away. I couldn’t believe it was a fully vegan cupcake! My first bites of the pesto meatball sandwich and the quinoa taco salad were equally impressive.
But almost every experience thereafter fell short.
My love for by CHLOE. dwindled as the novelty and hype wore off. I’ve tried many of by CHLOE.’s items once. But only once. And even the items I’ve returned to over and over again have been inconsistent in their quality.
This inconsistency was even more apparent across countries. After trying by CHLOE. in Boston, I studied abroad right next to their inaugural international branch in London. To my dismay, the raspberry tiramisu cupcake in London didn’t taste anything like the Boston version—and vice versa. I first fell in love with the pesto meatball sandwich in London, but the one I had in Boston was rather disappointing.
Moreover, though by CHLOE’s online menus don’t list prices, a sandwich or salad is no cheaper than $10-$15 in Boston and £10-£15 in London. While these prices probably allow the chain to afford the higher costs of operating in a more sustainable manner, they exclude many people from being customers. I also expect that the price point is a marketing strategy to communicate higher quality and value to their upper-middle to upper-class target customers.
Speaking of marketing, by CHLOE.’s mission statement communicates its unique value proposition.
by CHLOE. aims to share delicious, wholesome, plant-based food that fuels and energizes without compromising flavor, taste or satisfaction. Our chef-driven vegan menu features locally-sourced ingredients in their most natural form to create inspired dishes, made 100% by us daily.by CHLOE. Mission Statement
Mission statements like this frustrate me. By using buzzwords like “natural” and “locally-sourced”, by CHLOE. can paint a misleading picture. How can by CHLOE. claim to feature ingredients in their “most natural form”? How is a cupcake the most natural form of plant-based ingredients? Not to mention, “featuring” locally-sourced ingredients doesn’t necessarily mean all their ingredients are locally-sourced.
With its messaging, by CHLOE. strives to position itself as a healthy option, but its offering isn’t exactly health-promoting. This is a gripe I have with the “vegan diet” more generally. You can claim to eat a vegan diet but still eat fried foods and Oreos all day.
Now, I recognize I’m being a bit of a stickler. And by CHLOE.’s practices are undoubtedly preferable to the traditional fast food alternative. Even the fact that by CHLOE. is 100% plant-based is already so much better for people and the planet than other conventional restaurants.
But just because something is better than the alternative, doesn’t mean it’s automatically good.
Still, I fully appreciate the importance of striking a balance. I could never be someone who ate raw whole foods 24/7. That’s not feasible, sustainable, or desirable for many people, including myself. Thus, we need byCHLOE.’s in the world to bring plant-based eating into mainstream culture.