[Q&A] Grown’s Shannon Allen: Healthy Food Fast

[Q&A] Grown’s Shannon Allen: Healthy Food Fast

Shannon Allen and her husband, former NBA star, Ray Allen, own and operate Grow, a USDA Organic Certified fast food concept with a drive-through, in Miami. Shannon created the concept after searching unsuccessfully for an organic nutrient-dense meal on the go for their five children, including their son, Walker, who lives with Type 1 Diabetes.  
What specific items can be found on Grown’s menu?

Menu highlights include our Mediterranean wrap or salad with organic mixed greens, quinoa tabbouleh, hummus, roasted red pepper, marinated red onion, vine ripened tomatoes, feta cheese and green olives topped with a herb yogurt dressing. In addition to fresh salad creations and wraps, guests can enjoy Grown’s Free-Range Rotisserie Chicken, Wild-Caught Grilled Salmon, and Florida Shrimp with house-made sides like organic quinoa tabbouleh, roasted mashed sweet potatoes, and sautéed broccoli. We are experimenting with growing herbs, lettuces, and vegetables on our rooftop. 
Grown was the seventh eatery in the U.S. to gain full organic certification as a restaurant. What were some of the challenges associated with obtaining that certification?

The biggest challenge initially was finding a regulatory agency that would work with us to achieve certification. All of our initial inquiries were met with the usual “no”, “impossible” and comments about how difficult it would for a fast food concept. We were very fortunate to have a wonderful working relationship with one of the grand dames of organic farming and a long-time member of the Slow Food Movement- Gabriele Mariewski (Paradise Farms Organic, Homestead, Fl.). Gabriele encouraged us to connect with a recognized USDA Organic Certification agency called QCS which worked with us throughout the intense 18-month process. 
Grown’s second location is housed inside a Walmart supercenter. Do your different locations target the same clientele?

Do you know who shops at Walmart? People. That’s our clientele. Busy people everywhere that are looking for delicious, nutrient dense breakfast, lunch and dinner made with 100% USDA organic certified ingredients with the convenience we’ve all grown accustomed to. Walmart is no exception. Walmart sees 260 million guests per week in over 11,000 locations around the world. Walmart is also the second largest purchaser of organic products behind Costco. Providing value, transparency and real food made meticulously and with respect to personal preferences like vegan, paleo, gluten free, pescatarian, allergen aware and vegetarian options should be the right of every family regardless of mean income or zip code. 

Does Grown have expansion plans?

We are excited about opening more company owned stores in captive audience spaces like airports, hospital lobbies, sports arenas, busy stretches of highway, and college campuses. We will grow wherever busy people are frustrated and searching for an organic fast food option. In 2018, we are also committed to learning as much as possible about franchising. We’ve been very fortunate to have received requests from folks all over the US and abroad that are passionate about bringing Grown to their hometowns. It’s very exciting; but, we are serious about due diligence and taking measured steps to learn everything we can from the experts.