As busy parents operating in Vancouver’s corporate world, Meghan Clarke and her husband/business partner Steve found it hard to feed their family quick healthy food.
“Often, we would grab stuff to go or order out and [the options were] not super healthy,” she explains. The couple saw this as a gap in the market — one which would eventually become the inspiration behind the 2013 launch of Tractor Everyday Healthy Foods.
The family-owned business is built on a mission of improving access to healthy food, with a focus on fresh, nutritious and high-quality offerings.
“We left the corporate world and had about 14 months where we planned and got [the brand] off the ground,” says Clarke. “We’ve always been interested in food and health and we’d been watching the market for a long time…We knew veggies, lean meats and proteins were big categories people were interested in and we knew speed and convenience were huge, so we tried to lump it all together and roll something out that ticked a lot of those boxes.”
Following the launch, the Tractor team focused on establishing a presence in Vancouver, moving into more business-heavy areas, including its second location, which opened in Vancouver’s financial district in 2015 and remains the brand’s top-performing restaurant.
Locations feature a modern design aesthetic with open-concept kitchens embedded right in the main dining room, as well as dining spaces accented in natural wood and stone. Guests order at a cafeteria-style counter, which showcases the brand’s menu offerings, including bowls, soups and stews, sandwiches and sides — all made fresh in house. Breakfast is offered at select locations and some also feature full espresso bars, which serve 49th Parallel coffee and espresso.
Tractor has marked several growth milestones over the last year. In June 2018, the brand launched its first location outside of Vancouver in downtown Toronto. Last fall marked the opening of the brand’s head office, located just a block away from the original Tractor restaurant. And, in June, the brand launched a new pick-up-only concept — Tractor Digital — in Vancouver.
“Our brand is moving more into the digital world. We feel like convenience and speed are so important to people — particularly in the downtown sectors of cities,” says Clarke. “We’ve built our own proprietary app that we’re using for our new Tractor-Digital brand. Building out [the tech aspect] of our business will probably be the way of the future.”
Tractor Digital is an order-ahead concept offering the menu items Tractor has built its reputation on. The majority of the 1,800-sq.-ft. space is dedicated to the kitchen, with a small self-serve pick-up zone for customers.
The new concept — developed in partnership with Toronto-based digital-product studio Apply Digital — is designed to be a convenient catering platform allowing customers to easily order ahead and pick up individual meals or organize catering for groups of all sizes.
“It’s a huge step and there isn’t any other concept in North America doing what we’re doing in terms of the format of the store,” adds Clarke.
Because the format and service model are unconventional, the location currently has staff in place to help walk customers through the experience of using the new restaurant concept.
Including the Tractor Digital unit, the brand currently boasts eight locations — seven in Vancouver and one in Toronto. “It’s been interesting watching the brand evolve from one that had zero brand awareness with Vancouverites to now,” says Clarke.
Looking ahead, the Tractor team is set to continue growth in Vancouver and Toronto, “but we’re also looking across Canada at different cities, as well as the U.S., and hope to expand south in the near future,” says Clarke. “We’re constantly looking, studying areas that fit with our demographic.”
As the brand is looking to expand both of its concepts, its’s focusing on more residential neighbourhoods for the brand’s café concept and business-focused areas for Tractor Digital.