Fresh Food, Fast

Ayr Muir is founder and CEO of the Clover Food Lab — a chain of restaurants in the Boston area that serves fresh vegetarian food fast.
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Meet Ayr Muir, founder and CEO of the Clover Food Lab, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts which operates 10 "fast food" vegetarian restaurants in the Boston area.

What motivated him to get into this business? A strong desire to save the environment.

While sitting on a blue plastic chair in Harvard Yard, across the street from his Clover headquarters store, Muir explains that he started his chain of vegetarian restaurants in 2008, and hopes to open up meat-free restaurants around the globe.

A graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a master’s degree in Material Science in 2001, and an MBA from Harvard Business School in 2004, Muir didn’t launch his chain of fast food restaurants because he likes vegetarian food. He knew it would be good for everyone.

Muir happened to read a UN report about the relationship between food and the environment right after he'd left a global management consulting company. The crux of the study, says Muir, was that the global livestock industry is a major contributor to harmful greenhouse gases, even more than the transportation industry.

“I realized that I could have a lot greater impact on the environment if I somehow helped change what people ate,” Muir says.

His food makes vegetarianism an easy choice. Chickpea Fritter Sandwiches, Potato Cauliflower Togarashi Salad and Crimson Lentil and Butternut Squash Soup are just a few items on the Clover menus. Clover is also committed to proving that eating vegetarian does not mean compromising flavor, Muir says. 

His interpretation of “fast food” means serving food that is as fresh and simple as possible. "We're obsessed with speed and constantly time ourselves," Muir writes on the company's website. "Our average serve times are about 3.5 minutes which makes us a little slower than McDonald's." 

Clover purchases only in-season food from local vendors—hence, the menus change daily. In fact, Clover is so committed to freshness that none of their stores has a freezer. 

(Want to make your own "fast" food? Check out our recipe for Stir-Fried Rice Noodles.)

Anthony Chiorazzi has an MPhil degree in social anthropology from Oxford University and a master's of theological studies degree from the Harvard Divinity School.  He has researched and written articles about the Old Order Amish, Shakers, Zoroastrians and the Mormons.

Photo by Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer