After two years and a lot of taste testing later, we launched the first Spyce in Downtown Crossing—our proudest moment to date. Take a look at our venture to Spyce V2.
Michael here. This is a wildly exciting week for the Spyce team—we’re launching what we’ve internally called “Spyce V2.” You might be wondering why. (We’re grateful that V1 got so much love!) We’ve learned a ton since opening the first Spyce. We’ve listened to all of you, what you liked, loved, and thought we could do differently. I wanted to share just where our hearts and heads are in this adventure. We couldn’t have done it without you.
When we first started Spyce in 2016, my friends and I wanted to eat better food, more vegetables, have it taste insanely good, and get our hands on it easily without it costing a ton. (In my founder-speak: We set out to lower the barriers to fresh, exciting, vegetable-centric meals, all while creating an awesome customer experience.) And we had the crazy idea to use automation to get us there. Two years and a lot of taste testing later, we launched the first Spyce in Downtown Crossing—our proudest moment to date.
Running the restaurant was a total whirlwind, with long lines at lunch, loads of great reviews, and press accolades. We had a ton of fun doing it. We also learned more from all of you in the first two months of running the store than we did in our two years of development.
Lessons from V1
Here’s what went well
Food & Experience
You loved our food and being able to watch your meals cook! Far from being off-putting (we’d wondered about that beforehand), kitchen automation turned out to be a major attraction (not really the point but we’ll take it!).
We learned many of you were really into the personalization we built into our ordering experience, using our kiosks to easily modify the menu, toggling our bowls between vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free. Many of you deeply appreciated the ability to order without having to pore over ingredients, ask for adjustments, and worry about mistakes. We learned that you wanted to see more options for different diets and allergies.
Our technology worked to let us be true to our original ethos: to pay above market wages, provide consistent hours, and offer benefits. It allowed us to run the store with a lean team of 4-5 team members per shift. While we have some ways to go, we were proud to make strides in an industry where employees often get left behind.
Here’s what didn’t
Many of you asked for more options to personalize and customize your meals. You asked about leafy greens and other fresh vegetables and fruits served cold. You also told us that our grain-based bowls could be heavy, but the design of our first generation automated kitchen prevented us from being able to change that. It’s important to us that our menu is as dynamic and nuanced as you all are. Different people eat in different ways, and we’re committed not only to diversity on our team, but also to diversity in the customers we serve.
We knew we could do even better on freshness. We were doing ingredient prep in a commissary kitchen several miles away. The daily packing, loading, and driving took away from the freshness and unduly burdened team members. That had to change.
You’re busy! You often don’t have time to wait in line for 15 minutes at lunch. Many of you asked us for online ordering, but we knew that would only slow down the in-store wait time while online orders were being prepared. That’s not in line with our commitment to support you by getting you out the door already! We had to solve it.
A whole new Spyce
In early 2019, we had to choose to keep going with the existing model and adapt over time, or go back to the drawing board. On one hand, it didn’t feel great to be taking a step back in our development as a company. On the other hand, one of our company values, Grow with Humility, rang in our ears. We wanted to challenge ourselves to learn from our past, and build something better.
We’re extremely excited to bring to you a new restaurant format and automated kitchen (which we call the Infinite Kitchen). Here’s what’s different:
We built a new personalization tool on our kiosk, app, and website to address 8 major allergens and 8 major diets, with more to come, including basics like vegetarian and vegan, but also diets like keto, Whole30 and low-FODMAP. We eliminated cross-contact within our Infinite Kitchen so that you can feel safe about your Spyce bowl—knowing that there won’t be any mistakes or cross-contamination.
After lots of diverse focus groups (maybe you were in some), we developed our new menu to ensure a variety of voices, palates, and appetites had a seat at the table. We made it even more versatile and customizable, enabling us to serve awesome salads in addition to our warm bowls. Each of our new bowls is inspired by some of our favorite flavors from around the world, with a balance of fresh, sweet, spicy, acidic, creamy, and crunchy.
Decreased Wait Times
Our new Infinite Kitchen is capable of preparing over 350 personalized and delicious bowls per hour (triple what we used to be able to do!)—which means you don’t have to wait longer than a couple of minutes for pick-up or takeout, and we can deliver to your door within 30 minutes.
We left our commissary model and built a prep kitchen in the back of the restaurant where our team will be washing, chopping, shredding, marinating, and seasoning produce while continuously stocking the Infinite Kitchen throughout the day. That way, we can make sure that your produce is always super fresh and flavorful.
To make the most of that flavor, we decided to forego our beloved wok for a scorching hot, carbon steel plancha to get the perfect sear and caramelization on every slice of halloumi cheese, and each piece of marinated tofu. Plus a one-of-its-kind superheated steamer, which steams grains and pastas to al dente perfection.
Many of you are spending more time at home, so it was important to us that we get delivery right—it had to be sustainable and the food had to get to you just as fresh and craveable as it would be if you were picking it up. We have a fleet of zero-emission electric mopeds, fitted with warming and cooling compartments to ensure that your warm ingredients remain warm, and your cold ingredients remain cold. Our delivery servers (aka drivers) are on our team as W2 employees to hopefully get to know you over time and pick up the compost from your last order (if you don’t have composting services at home).
Some things stay the same
Though we’ve missed you this past year, we’ve spent this time working hard to bring you an even better Spyce! Even though we’ve made some major changes, one thing has stayed the same: at its heart, Spyce is about connecting with you over healthy, delicious, and accessible meals.
We’re so excited to welcome you back, and I can’t wait to hear what you think. (And I’d love it if you’d let me know: firstname.lastname@example.org)