Element Fresh is not only one of my favorite restaurants in Shanghai, its probably one of my favorite places period. There is something about the soothing atmosphere, good service and tasty salads that makes me feel at home, but not in a cheesy “you-are-in-America” kind of way. Maybe it reminds of the home I wish I had. I don’t know but I do know that I love their fresh, healthy food and could eat the vast majority of my meals there in any given week. And I would probably be thinner than I am today. By a country mile.
Anyway, I had the opportunity to sit down with Element Fresh managing partner Frank Rasche (at left, looking happy after maybe a flu fighter smoothie?) last week to find out more on how Element Fresh does it. Here are some interesting facts on Element Fresh:
- Element Fresh best sellers are smoothies, juices and salads and if you look around during lunch, almost 3/4 of patrons are drinking smoothies – yum!
- Evenings at Element Fresh tend to attract local couples “going out for Western” on date night, while lunches, breakfasts and afternoons attract everyone from business folks to tourists to tai-tais out “for tea”.
- Element Fresh has locations in Beijing and soon to open in Guangzhou. But don’t hold out for Element Fresh locations all over Asia just yet. Frank insists they will only open restaurants they can successfully staff and offer the same service and high quality food. (Note: That statement reminded me of something I once heard from Starbuck’s CEO Howard Schultz when I worked for the 35th Starbucks when it opened in Chicago in 1990. Now I am writing this blog 8000 miles away at the 12,000th store. For what its worth…)
- Seasonal menu shifts happen after eight delicious rounds of taste testing which include most Element Fresh employees from the kitchen help to the finance department. Menus are based on seasonal ingredients, trends and instinct, such as the Chilean influence in the new Spring menu that emerged after another Element Fresh partner was stuck in Chile after the earthquake.
- Good service at Element Fresh is a family business. Most new employees are referred by current employees and often include whole families. And with a management team that seems to really care about their employees, their turnover is surprisingly low.
- Element Fresh is not opening a larger venue in the new Hongqiao airport but it has been named the permanent food and beverage provider in the new Shanghai World Expo Culture Center (soon-to-be Mercedes-Benz Center, after Expo). Cool, huh?
- My favs: Hummus platter, Greek salad with chicken, sea bass, chocolate cake and wine dinner specials. And yours?
For locations, times, delivery, menus and pictures of flying salad, visit www.elementfresh.com.