On a brutally hot June afternoon, Deb Lutz is sweating the details of her soon-to-debut franchise of the fast-casual chain b.good in Marlton’s Promenade at Sagemore shopping center. Her gas lines are hooked up and the reclaimed wood dining area radiates a rustic warmth, but the floor is still a work in progress and the all-important visit from the health department is just days away.
The pre-opening mishugas for any first entrepreneurial venture is bound to have more than a bissel of stressful moments, but if Lutz, multicolored Ronit Furst eyewear and stylishly summer-short hair framing her face, is ruffled, she’s not showing it.
That ability to remain calm in the face of impending deadlines is a trait the Bryn Mawr resident picked up during nearly two decades in corporate marketing for multinationals like Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson, where she worked with the companies’ food lines and specialized in product launches.
Sitting outside the former Lilly Pulitzer boutique now housing the 3,100-square foot b.good — the first of five locations she plans to open in the area — Lutz offered a simple explanation as to why she decided to leave one of the biggest companies in the world to enter a business which, by some metrics, has a 30 percent first-year mortality rate.
“I was working crazy hours in the corporate world anyway, so I figured I was well adjusted for this,” she said with a smile.
“This” is a relatively new entrant into the ever-growing fast-casual segment of the foodservice industry. The company, which began in the Boston area 10 years ago, focuses on providing a quick-service farm-to-table experience. Its emphasis on sustainability was a big draw for Lutz, as was the fact that she would be only the fourth franchise, which meant that she would receive more support than if she were one of thousands of owners clamoring for corporate attention.
Her own corporate experience has allowed her an unusual amount of input as well. “I work with them to freshen up what their design looks like, get them to tighten up what the brand stands for — that’s been a fun part as well,” she enthused.
In addition to her marketing career, Lutz’s personal life has also led her to this moment. As a baby, Lutz’s daughter Isabel was diagnosed with Prader-Willi syndrome, a rare genetic disorder afflicting 1 in 12,000 people that leads to developmental delays including feeding difficulties, an insatiable appetite and chronic overeating. “It affects the hypothalamus’ toggle between hunger and satiety,” Lutz explained. “She doesn’t know the difference, and she never feels full.”
As a result of Isabel’s condition — there is no known cure for Prader-Willi — Lutz has spent much of Isabel’s 14 years focused on nutrition and healthy foods. “When I thought about what I wanted to do” after leaving Johnson & Johnson, “I wanted it to be something I felt good about and that I could take my family to. Here, even the French fries have 30 percent less fat and calories” than their fast-food equivalents — a result of being partially baked.
It’s those types of little touches that Lutz believes will help her successfully compete against chains like Honeygrow, Sweetgreen and Chipotle. What Lutz says will set b.good apart from them, in addition to a culture of customer service, is a commitment to sustainable, seasonal produce worthy of an independent BYOB.
The freshly ground meat for the burgers is dry-aged Black Angus from Monkton, Md., and goes on a bun baked by Philadelphia’s Wild Flour Bakery. The milk and cream for the ice creams and milkshakes come from Chambersburg dairy dynamo Trickling Springs.
There is even a dedicated sweet potato farmer — Spina and Sons in Salem, N.J., trucking in product for b.good’s sweet potato fries.
With everything from burgers and fries to kale-quinoa bowls and smoothies, b.good seems like it will hit all of the sweet spots for a take-home family dinner. Even if people don’t eat Lutz’s food, though, she believes so strongly in the power of a meal shared at the dinner table that she has partnered up with the local nonprofit, Sunday Suppers, to make sure that more people can do so.
“For families that sit down to dinner together, the kids are more likely to do well in school, they are less likely to turn to drugs and alcohol, and they are all more likely to communicate with one another,” she emphasizes.
To help you make your own healthy — and quick — family meal at home, Lutz has provided the following recipes.
Prepare a medium charcoal fire or heat a gas grill to medium.
Sprinkle the burger with salt on both sides. Grill the burger until it has good grill marks, about 3 minutes. Flip and cook until the burger is done to your liking, about 2 more minutes.
Transfer the burger to the bun, top with the mushrooms, arugula and vinaigrette.
Makes 1 burger.
Puree the mustard, vinegar, red pepper, salt and pepper.
While still pureeing, add the oil in a thin steady stream and then the shallot and rosemary.
Makes 1 cup, or enough for 8 burgers.
Add the lettuce, radicchio, and fennel to a large bowl. Add the oil, mint, vinegar and salt and toss well. Sprinkle with the goat cheese and pistachio. Fan the orange and avocado around the top and serve.
Makes 1 salad.
Add all the ingredients to a blender and puree until smooth.
Makes 1 16-oz. smoothie.
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