This health-conscious fast-food chain is challenging McDonald’s to be healthier

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Freshii is giving momentum to the revolution in healthful fast-food.
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Hollis Johnson

When McDonald’s announced its improvement plan last year, the CEO of one fast-casual food chain was not impressed.

Freshii’s Matthew Corrin sent an open letter to McDonald’s offering to partner up with the struggling fast-food giant.

But the purpose was not to save Freshii; rather it was to bring about a healthy initiative to McDonald’s.

Freshii is not the company that needs help. After Corrin founded the chain in 2005, Freshii expanded in the midst of a crippling recession to more than 100 locations worldwide.

Such growth is impressive for a chain focusing on fresh produce and antibiotic- and hormone-free meats, as well as a wide range of vegetarian options.

While on a trip to Boston, I decided to swing into the nearest Freshii to see for myself whether this chain had what it would take to turn around the health of the fast-food industry.


Freshii hasn’t broken into the New York City market just yet, but it has stores in several major US cities, including Los Angeles, Miami, and Minneapolis. I visited one of its three Boston locations — this one is at 185 Dartmouth Street next to Copley Square.

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Hollis Johnson

The interior is bright and clean, with solid wood tables. You can see the entire food area behind the sneeze guards — no hidden kitchen.

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Hollis Johnson

The decor isn’t whimsy, but it’s not sterile. The whole restaurant feels clean and young — targeting the millennial demographic.

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Hollis Johnson

It was a sunny day, and all the windows let in a lot of light.

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Hollis Johnson

The menu is surprisingly large. You can choose a salad, soup, wrap, burrito, or bowl, with your choice of additional protein: chicken, steak, falafel, tofu, or tuna, or simply choose quinoa or kale instead. Each protein costs $1.50 to $3 on top of the meal price.

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Hollis Johnson

There’s a separate breakfast menu as well, covering most of the basics.

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Hollis Johnson

As well as the usual bottled choices, you can also order from its menu of freshly squeezed juices and smoothies.

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Hollis Johnson

I made my order and sat down at a table. Your name is called when your order is ready to be picked up at the end of the counter. You can get meals to go, or to stay. Either way, the service is quick, taking five to eight minutes.

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Hollis Johnson

I’m curious about this place, so I ordered a few items. First ready is the spicy Thai burrito and my strawberry-banana smoothie.

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Hollis Johnson

It’s a big burrito, hefty and full. It sure feels as if it’s full of energy …

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Hollis Johnson

… and wow, it is full. It’s stuffed with chicken (my choice), quinoa, cabbage, edamame, carrots, cilantro, and a spicy lemongrass sauce that is actually satisfyingly spicy. The price is $6.99, plus $1.49 for chicken.

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Hollis Johnson

The smoothie is delicious — but then again, any place that manages to mess up a strawberry-banana smoothie has some explaining to do. It’s fresh and smooth, and it has the tartness of real strawberries. For $6, it’s a good size.

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Hollis Johnson

Next up is the Pangoa bowl, brimming with brown rice, black beans, corn, cheddar cheese, cherry tomatoes, avocado, and a tangy barbecue sauce. With chicken, it costs $9.48, after a base price of $7.99.

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Hollis Johnson

It’s a huge portion, and very filling. The barbecue sauce is somewhat sweet, with the spicy heat kicking in later. It was, however, lacking in avocado. Not much in there.

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Hollis Johnson

I also got the Cobb wrap, from a choice of wrap or salad. The wrap follows a classic Cobb-salad formula, with bacon, avocado, blue cheese, tomatoes, and corn — but no egg. The honey Dijon dressing was light and zesty. The wrap costs $7.99, and the salad costs $8.99; add the cost of chicken, and this wrap costs $9.48.

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Hollis Johnson

Each item was incredibly filling, and I ended up bringing half of each wrap home.

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Hollis Johnson

Also, I splurged for the frozen yogurt. I can’t resist! But at only $5 for a large serving plus a choice of two toppings, it’s cheaper than most frozen-yogurt joints.

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Hollis Johnson

With a variety of healthy choices that also taste great, Freshii may just be the healthful shot in the arm the fast-food industry needs.

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Hollis Johnson