Food Trends

Inside the first USDA organic certified fast food restaurant

The spicy chicken sandwich is the signature menu item at the country first USDA-organic certified fast food joint.

The spicy chicken sandwich is the signature menu item at the country first USDA-organic certified fast food joint.  (Courtesy The Organic Coup)

Chipotle may claim to be GMO-free but the beloved Mexican Grill may have met its match when it comes to revolutionizing organic focused fast food industry.

On Tuesday, The Organic Coup opened its first location in Pleasanton, Calif., a suburb of San Francisco. With a menu that’s 95 percent organic—from the chicken, to vegetables, breads, sides and even sodas-- the chicken sandwich chain is now the first USDA-certified organic fast food restaurant in the country. 

The use of the word “coup” is no accident—say the chain’s founders who want to change industry standards when it comes to great food fast.

Founder Erica Welton, a former buyer for Costco who has been on the frontlines of following consumer trends, hatched the idea for Organic Coup two years ago during her time on the road.

“We were always on the go and usually the best choice we had for food was Chipotle,” Welton told “They’ve done a really great job on the non-GMO front but somebody needed to take it all the way.”

Welton, who was responsible for introducing the Costco customer to organic chicken, says she noticed a shift in consumer buying habits during her last four years with the discount retailer and knew the industry would only get bigger. She left Costco in January to move full-speed ahead with the Coup but credits valuable lessons learned during her time there.

“Everything from our business model comes from what we learned during our time at Costco,” says Welton adding that includes a streamlined menu.

The Organic Coup offers just three main menu items—all featuring their signature, organic chicken breast which is fried in Nutiva coconut oil: a spicy chicken sandwich with a spicy slaw made from shredded vegetables; a tortilla wrap with the same fixings and a bowl. The only side is organic caramel-coated popcorn drizzled in chocolate. Welton says they want to focus on the menu as is and become the “best” at what they do.

The says her chain is for everyone-- from “moms to millennials,” all of whom are becoming more savvy shoppers.

“They don’t want their chicken raised with antibiotics and they don’t want their produce to have a ton of chemicals…this is where the market is headed,” says Welton. She told that she made her kids’ baby food and buys only organic food when possible.

The Organic Coup has an aggressive expansion plan with 25 stores planned to open throughout California next year. Welton has her eye on other big organic-friendly markets including Denver, Seattle, Portland and Manhattan in the near future.

The signature sandwich may carry a hefty price tag at $8.99—Shake Shack’s Chicken Shack is $6.29—but Welton’s revolutionary philosophy extends beyond the quality of her food. Employees at The Chicken Coup take home at least $14 an hour.