Meet the Lafayette woman taking the fast-food industry by (organic) storm
By Adam Hiles
A Lafayette entrepreneur is rapidly expanding her organic fast-food chain. Here’s the scoop on The Organic Coup,
While working as a food buyer for Costco Wholesale, Erica Welton brought in the superstore’s first organic product—organic milk—and then spent the next 12 years turning Costco into the country’s largest organic food retailer.
So, it’s no surprise that the Lafayette resident launched the first USDA–certified organic fast-food restaurant in America, The Organic Coup, with former Costco executive Dennis Hoover.
“I remember being at work, and we were traveling around in a van, and I said, ‘Somebody should open an organic sandwich shop. That would be so awesome,’ ” says Welton.
Two years later, in November 2015, Welton opened the first Organic Coup restaurant in Pleasanton, which offered essentially one item: fried chicken. Now, there are eight locations in Northern California—and more are on the way. We talked to Welton about her fried chicken sandwiches and what’s next for The Organic Coup.
Q: Why did you choose fried chicken?
A: Fried chicken is special and not something people do for themselves at home. I have been a fan of [Oakland’s] Bakesale Betty for many years, and fried chicken sandwiches have been on fire for the last couple of years.
The fact that you can get your fried chicken in a sandwich, wrap, or bowl, and choose from four different sauces gives The Organic Coup’s customers the opportunity to customize their eating experience.
Q: What’s your favorite item on the menu?
A: I always get the Coup wrap with the spicy BBQ ranch sauce—which is our number one sauce—and I add organic guacamole to it. The wrap is made with a multigrain tortilla that has oat, chia, flax, hemp, and a little bit of cinnamon. It’s so good!
Q: Why haven’t you expanded the menu to include other types of sandwiches?
A: We have the Costco mind-set of doing something right and staying focused, so we didn’t want to have 50 items on the menu. I think that’s one of the things that enabled us to become certified organic. We wanted to focus on sourcing high-quality foods like organic coconut oil and Mary’s organic air-chilled chicken breast. We get so many compliments from people who say they didn’t feel yucky after eating our fried food, and I attribute that to the quality ingredients we’re using.
Q: How did you develop the recipes?
A: We worked with a chef from Louisiana, who helped us come up with the breading for the chicken, and we also collaborated with a few R&D people on the sauces. The ranch was actually the hardest item to develop because people have the expectation of Hidden Valley [Original] Ranch—but that has MSG in it. We didn’t want to disappoint, but I think it’s the best certified organic ranch on the market, and it doesn’t disappoint customers.
Q: What’s next for The Organic Coup?
A: We just opened an Oakland location on Clay Street, across from City Hall, and a Berkeley location on Telegraph Avenue, right on the doorstep of the Cal campus. We were very lucky to get some funding from the founder of Costco and the current CFO, and we’re pushing hard to open more locations. In 2017, we will open more locations across Northern California and expand into Seattle. We also hope to announce a surprise venue where we can serve lots of Bay Area fans. theorganiccoup.com.