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Marketing Health

November 5, 2014

Last week I was invited up to Queensbury for a media preview of a new restaurant. There was a bunch of free food to try out from the menu.

Things like this are always tricky. Years ago when Chipotle opened up their Capital Region stores, they rolled out their chef to prepare samples for the media. Those were the best bites of Chipotle I’ve ever eaten. So food samples at these kinds of events aren’t exactly a great barometer for what a consumer can expect on any average day ordering from the counter.

Still, there is something to be learned. Otherwise, why would I have made the drive on a school night?

The place is called FX3, which stands for Fit Food Fast. Get it? It’s three F words in a row. The name is like a formula, Our Brand Identity = F x 3. Two of those words are pretty self explanatory: food and fast. But what does it mean for food to be fit?

FX3’s biggest challenge is that everyone has a different idea of what it means for food to be healthful. The owners worked with both a chef and a dietician when composing their menu, but they weren’t optimizing towards a single goal. Rather, they were attempting to offer something for everyone.

It’s difficult for me to separate my own notions about healthful eating for this analysis. I want food that’s minimally processed, made from scratch using sustainably raised meats and produce.

I’m okay with fat. I’d prefer it to be some heart healthy non-partially hydrogenated oil. But real butter is delicious, and that can be a part of a healthy diet too. I’m also okay with sugar, which isn’t to say that I like everything sweet. But real maple syrup, even regular old corn syrup (made from non-GMO corn) is fine in moderation. Washing your food down with a cup full of high fructose corn syrup as a matter of course is another issue entirely.

This last part is why I was dismayed to see a traditional soda fountain prominently displayed in the dining room. There’s nothing fit about it. That said, even Chipotle, which has started an effort to reduce its use of GMOs, still is making no moves to eject its soda fountain.

That said, all the FX3 smoothies come with stevia in them. You can’t take it out, as it’s part of their mix. Although remarkably, even though I’m very sensitive to stevia, I did not pick up on a strong aftertaste of this “natural” sweetener in the kale, cucumber and mango smoothie. It was a bit more obvious in the peanut butter and banana version.

Lean, clean chicken plays a prominent part in the FX3 menu. Theirs is from Coleman Natural breasts, which are vegetarian fed and never administered antibiotics. A six-ounce portion gets dusted with a signature spice blend, and cooked stupid fast in a gigantic George Foreman Grill-like contraption.

The chicken I was served was shockingly juicy. So juicy I thought it must be brined. I mean, that may have been the most moist meat I’ve ever had to eat. But I was told there was no brine, rather that the secret is in the fast cooking time of their clamshell-like device that quickly cooks the meat on both sides at the same time.

Baked fries were good too. There’s another special device that makes these potato-starch-dusted shoestrings crisp up while still being tender on the inside. They aren’t going to fool you into thinking they’re the real oil-fried specimens, but they aren’t half bad. Still, I wish they were made from organic or local no-spray potatoes.

The beef I’m less thrilled about. Their menu simply calls it “all-natural” which is effectively meaningless. It’s a 90/10 blend. The best thing I can say is that their super duper double-sided cooker does a great job with these thin patties, and they come out still pink in the center. Was this better for you than fast food beef? Maybe you could make that argument given the fat blend, but I see room for improvement here.

This is going to sound weird, but I did actually like their kale and brussel sprout salad. They even had a side of raw shredded sweet potato and apple slaw that was also pretty good. I might even try to replicate these at home as a quick and easy way to eat some late fall vegetables. The FX3 quinoa was better than my attempt at making this grain at home, although the diced tomatoes were already hard and white and we’re not even in winter yet.

I think if you can get away from the idea that this is marketed as health food, and think of it as a healthier option to fast food, FX3 could be a fine place to grab a quick bite. FX3 still sounds like the second sequel to that old Bryan Brown movie from the 1980s.

It will be interesting to see how this quick service restaurant gets fine tuned after its official grand opening on November 8. They could probably make a go of it just by specializing in chicken sandwiches, salads and bowls (which pretty much combine the two). Right now the menu seems a bit sprawling, and menu simplification is an important step in serving people quickly.

Perhaps next time I’m up at Hicks-Wilson Orchard, gorging myself on cider donuts, I can swing by here on the way home to repent with a few bites of something savory.

That’s how I do health. It’s a miracle I’m still standing.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Billy permalink
    November 5, 2014 1:09 pm

    It just so happens I’ll be heading up to Glens Falls on the 15th. I will stop in for lunch for sure, with the wife and a very picky 7 yr old in tow.

  2. Cyril permalink
    November 5, 2014 1:54 pm

    How do you even pronounce their name? Ef X 3? Fit Food Fast? F times 3?

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