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Meet Tampa’s Greenlane, the drive-thru with healthy fast food under $10

The expanding chain aims to fill a gap in the grease-dominated fast food space by offering customizable salads for cheap.
 
Greenlane server Jenna Falkowski hands off an order to Trish and Bryan Reardon at the drive-thru in Tampa.
Greenlane server Jenna Falkowski hands off an order to Trish and Bryan Reardon at the drive-thru in Tampa. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published Dec. 11, 2023|Updated Dec. 12, 2023

A new drive-thru chain founded in Tampa is expanding across the region.

Greenlane — which specializes in salads and wraps — opened its first location earlier this year in South Tampa. Next year, it aims to open two more in Tampa and St. Petersburg.

“Yes, we’re a salad brand. But we’re not your average rabbit food,” reads the company’s website.

The chain was created to fill a gap in the drive-thru market that’s saturated with cheap, greasy food, said Greenlane’s chief operating officer and co-founder, Chris Kern. It also hopes to follow in the footsteps of other Tampa Bay-based restaurants that became household names, like Outback Steakhouse and Hooters.

“We provide a healthier option to the traditional fast, greasy fried foods by providing the same or better convenience with a quick drive-thru,” Kern said.

A worker cuts an avocado at Greenlane.
A worker cuts an avocado at Greenlane. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

While there’s a rising number of health-conscious restaurants in town, Kern said there’s a lack of cheaper and healthier food options in drive-thrus specifically. Some salads come pre-packaged and can’t be customized, or they’re only available at walk-in restaurants like Sweetgreen at a higher price.

Currently, Greenlane sells salads and wraps for under $10.

“Fast food doesn’t have to be boring or unhealthy. There are other options out there,” said Erica Spector Wishnow, a leading adviser for Greenlane. “Everybody should be able to afford a healthy meal.”

Greenlane’s first location opened at 4495 West Gandy Blvd. The company hopes to open a flagship store south of Raymond James Stadium, Kern said.

Construction of the location at 2055 N. Dale Mabry Highway is set to break ground this month. It will be larger than the Gandy restaurant and will have a two-lane drive-thru.

An architectural drawing of the Greenlane location opening near Raymond James Stadium and Tampa International Airport.
An architectural drawing of the Greenlane location opening near Raymond James Stadium and Tampa International Airport. [ Courtesy of Greenlane ]

And not long after, Greenlane will start building its St. Petersburg location at Fourth Street North and 80th Avenue North.

While construction is ongoing, Greenlane has other sites across Tampa Bay on its radar.

“Our goal is to open three to five locations in 2024,” Kern said. “We’re working with Waters Avenue, and we also have another site in Brandon that we’re excited about.”

There’s potential to spread into Sarasota, Lakeland and Orlando in the future, he said.

Kern co-founded the company with venture capitalist Christopher Burch, who has invested in Voss Water and a line of fashion and hospitality brands. This is Burch’s first foray into the food business.

Morgan Robinson of Tampa orders at the drive thru at Greenlane on Saturday.
Morgan Robinson of Tampa orders at the drive thru at Greenlane on Saturday. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

Greenlane’s restaurants will have a distinctive look — from lime green paneling outside and carrot-shaped potted plants to jasmine flower vines surrounding the drive-thru lanes for a welcoming aroma when people roll down their windows to order.

“We want the customer to feel like they’re going to something different and a little bit elevated and thoughtful,” Kern said.

The restaurant’s menu only uses olive oil. Salads and wraps come with either chicken or tofu as a protein. Greenlane keeps costs low by only offering drive-thru, delivery or pickup. It’s open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day.

While construction is ongoing, Greenlane has other sites across Tampa Bay on its radar.
While construction is ongoing, Greenlane has other sites across Tampa Bay on its radar. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

While there may be lingering stigmas around vegetable-centered meals, Kern said Greenlane embraces its “rabbit food” and hopes to both defy expectations and stay affordable.

“We’ve got several folks from MacDill Air Force Base everyday. They just rave about how filling our meals are.” Kern said. “You’re not gonna eat and be hungry in an hour like your typical salad.”