‘Fresh To Order’: Local chain provides affordable healthy meals

An Asian Chicken Crunch panini offered as an entree at Fresh to Order. Photo by Jade Johnson | The Signal
The outside patio of the Sweet Hut Midtown of location. Photo by Dayne Francis | The Signal
The outside patio of the Sweet Hut Midtown of location.
Photo by Dayne Francis | The Signal

Midtown offers an unending smorgasbord of popular food stops, including a variety of college-friendly joints for Atlanta’s starving students. The fare ranges from pricey restaurants, best saved for a dinner date, to inexpensive grab and go places. Nestled next to a Five Guys is Fresh To Order, a fast-casual restaurant that aims to offer something a little different. Reasonable prices for food that is as fresh and delicious as the expensive places.

As an option for those students who shy away from the artery-clogging fare of many quick and cheap establishments, Fresh to Order serves soups and sandwiches with an emphasis on health. Its tagline sums up its goals: “Fine. Food. Fast.”

Fresh To Order is catered towards those who want a healthy meal quickly. It started back in 2006, according to Fresh to Order’s Vice President of Marketing Chris Campagna, as a way to bring more fresh foods into the fast-casual arena at affordable prices.

“Unlike many other fast-casual restaurants, we cook on-site,” Campagna said. “For example, we only fire-grill all of our fresh proteins.”

It sounds crazy, but many restaurants do not actually cook their food in the restaurant. For chains especially, the food is often shipped in pre-cooked or frozen and then heated up before being served, according to The Daily Meal. Fresh to Order’s decision to cook food from scratch at the time of your order is relatively uncommon in restaurants in its price range.

The menu includes lots of standard healthy dishes, but with some unexpected twists. The Outside-the-Box Burger section, for example, includes a tuna burger made with ginger scallions and a bison burger in lieu of a traditional cow beef patty.

Most of the menu is made up of variants of standard “healthy restaurant” favorites. There are sections for salads, paninis, and soups, as well as an “Entree Long Plates” category with dishes such as Coconut Curry Chicken and Wild Mushroom Steak Medallions.

An Asian Chicken Crunch panini offered as an entree at Fresh to Order. Photo by Jade Johnson | The Signal
An Asian Chicken Crunch panini offered as an entree at Fresh to Order.
Photo by Jade Johnson | The Signal

Healthiness is not just measured by calorie count and fat content – the source of the food matters as well, which inspires Fresh To Order’s use of organic and local foods.

“We do source many of our ingredients locally and our chef’s make sure our menu items are not only full of flavor, but that they are also good for you. Achieving this combination often calls for recipes with scratch-made all-natural and organic ingredients,” Campagna said.

Fresh to Order also emphasizes the quality of your dining experience, trying to create a fine dining feel that is still comfortable when it comes to their locations, according to Fresh to Order’s website.

It’s a chain, yes, but a local one, a far cry from the plastic feel of a McDonald’s or Wendy’s. The restaurant is clean and bright, with the food and grills on easy display, but the design is meant to still feel casual. Think of a fancy Panera as a reference point. The “Fine” in the tagline is supposed to describe both the food and the experience.

This emphasis on healthy, fresh foods with an upscale ambience led to Fresh to Order’s many industry awards, which include Food News Media’s Healthy Active Lifestyle Award (2014), and Fast Casual’s Top 50 (2015), according to their website. This allowed founder Pierre Panos to expand to many different locations around Georgia and throughout the Southeast, including in Buckhead, Decatur, and the Atlanta Airport. They can also be found in Tennessee and Florida.

Panos’ success with Fresh to Order is an important reminder that people want to see fast healthy food options in their busy lives, a trend reflected by the growth of “health casual” dining in the US and throughout the world. The number of fast food restaurants serving health superfoods like kale and quinoa is projected to keep growing, according to Business Insider. Traditional burger places are even joining in the trend, with restaurants like McDonald’s serving salads and grilled options.

Midtown is an ideal location for Fresh To Order to prove the “health casual” trend, since it is a foot-traffic hub near many businesses and quite close to Georgia State and the Georgia Tech Campus. It may also benefit from its prime spot on a strip of well-known restaurants, such as Escorpion and the Vortex, as hungry restaurant-seekers wander up and down the street searching for a bite.

Campagna enjoys how the location brings many different kinds of customers, from students to professionals and local residents.

“We absolutely love being able to bring high quality, REAL, food to such a wide mix of people,” Campagna said.

But those seeking a high-end sitdown dinner may not be in the mood for a quick, easy meal, and Campagna stressed the importance of Fresh To Order as a haven in the lives of busy college students.

“Today’s college students want to eat healthy, but they also want to enjoy unique flavors and fresh ingredients. Not only does Fresh To Order provide all these attributes, but we [also] do so at an affordable cost while providing different price options and plate sizes for guests,” Campagna said.

For dine in, it’s just a hop and skip from campus, right in the heart of midtown, but they also provide takeout and delivery services. Plus they offer a 15 percent discount to Georgia State students and faculty.

Next time you’re sick of fast food and looking for a bite in Midtown, Fresh to Order might be a go-to for an easy, healthy meal at affordable prices.

Fresh To Order Lunch Ideas

Grilled Vegetable Panini: Grilled zucchini, grilled onions, olive salad, baby greens, avocado, grilled squash, feta cheese, balsamic vinaigrette
Market Salad: Mixed Baby Greens, Mandarin Oranges, Candied Walnuts, Golden Raisins, Apples, Toasted Almonds, Balsamic Vinaigrette.
Tuna Burger: Ginger scallion studded tuna burger, asian slaw, baby field greens, ciabatta, horseradish aioli

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