Chicago’s suburbs should soon welcome the nation’s first certified-organic fast food restaurant with a drive-thru. That dubious distinction goes to Nic’s Organic Fast Food, as CEO Benjamin Brittsan hopes to open his first location in February in Rolling Meadows. Brittsan and his wife, Nicolette Brittsan, have dreams of expanding across the Chicago area and eventually heading west to California and Washington. He and his team forecast opening as many as 50 restaurants within three and a half years.
Nic’s Organic will feature a menu of burgers, fried and grilled chicken sandwiches and salads. They’ll serve breakfast sandwiches with fresh-squeezed orange juices and organic coffees. The prices are comparable to Epic Burger or Five Guys. For example, a double-cheeseburger combo meal with a drink and fries runs about $8.60. Tractor Soda Co. will provide the organic beverages.
The restaurant’s products have been certified organic by Quality Assurance International. The nation’s first organic chain, California-based Organic Coup, was certified by the USDA. Certification means the foods are free of pesticides and other chemicals. The certification is something that comes with standards and isn’t an empy buzz phrase like “all natural,” said Benjamin Brittsan. Brittsan feels better after eating an organic burger compared to a normal fast-food offering.
“The organic lifestyle doesn’t mean you’re eating any healthier in terms of the food,” Brittsan added. “What you’re benefitting from is from what’s not in the food.”
There’s nothing inherently healthy or low calorie about the “Big Nic Bacon Burger,” one of the restaurant’s signature items, for example. But the beef is free of hormones and chemicals. There are no antibiotics and that ethical farming practices are considered when sourcing their meat.
Brittsan sees Nic’s Organic as a throwback in comparison to supposedly-healthier chains like Sweet Greens and Lyfe Kitchen. His wife became enamored with burgers while pregnant. Ensuring those patties weren’t pumped with toxins while carrying a child became important to Nicolette Brittsan.
The couple met while enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu, as Benjamin Brittsan’s fine-dining experience took him to Highland Park where he ran Benjamin Restaurant and Benjamin Tapas. Nicolette Brittsan serves as the company’s president and the one who created the concept.
The would-be chain’s branding includes a mascot: Nic The Organic Farmer. He’s a muscular drink of water with a basket that holds a combo meal. He’s the restaurant’s superhero, as Nic’s tries to take back fast food from the clutches of pesticides.
In the immediate future, Nic’s has expansion plans for suburban Lincolnshire, Gurnee and eventually in Chicago. The Chicago location might not be a drive-thru, as space is at more of a premium in the city. Also, fewer city dwellers drive, sometimes preferring public transportation or bicycles.
Inside their first location in Rolling Meadows, there’s room for 60, as they’ve taken over a former Pizza Hut. The decor’s colors feature green and white, and Brittsan calls it a clean look with white glossy tables.
The Midwest is fertile ground to launch an organic fast-food restaurant, but Brittsan is also pumped about taking the concept to California and competing with already established restaurants. He hopes he and his wife can help make organic the norm, even in fast-food form.
“It doesn’t matter what you turn your organic product into,” Brittsan said. “It still comes with the same health benefits.”