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Ones to Watch | By judy Kneiszel

EVOS
Evos offers typical fast-food fare minus the high calorie count.

According to the founders of EVOS, ketchup matters. So much so that they created the Ketchup Karma Bar at their concept where diners select from four flavors. 

The ketchups are housemade and flavors are Garlic Gravity, spicy Cayenne Fire Walker, smoky Mesquite Magic, and Original Americana. For customers who want to try more than one, EVOS provides labels to identify the flavor once it has been pumped into a cup.

“Ketchup is a huge part of our business,” says cofounder Dino Lambridis. “We have a unique product called Airfries and people want something interesting to dip them in. People really love the whole Ketchup Karma Bar.”

Lambridis says the name EVOS is derived from the word evolve. “It’s fast food—evolved,” he says.

The Airfries, for example, evolved from their deep-fried counterparts to have 50–70 percent less fat. They are made with Airbake technology in a special oven that heats to 450 degrees and bakes fries with a small amount of vegetable oil. Airfries are just part of the EVOS experience, summed up in the company’s slogan: “Feel great fast food.”

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The price of a burger, fries, and drink at EVOS is about $7.50. Substituting a milkshake for that drink adds about $1. While somewhat pricier than a meal at a traditional fast food burger place, EVOS aims to capitalize on diners’ increased willingness to pay for food they don’t have to feel guilty for eating.

EVOS doesn’t preach about diet, however, and doesn’t claim to be selling health food—just food that is “healthier.” 

“We serve traditional all-American fast food, but made with respectable ingredients in a respectable atmosphere,” Lambridis says. 

There are no deep fryers in EVOS kitchens, and the hamburgers and hot dogs are made from naturally raised grass-fed beef that is hormone- and antibiotic-free.

“We use only source-verified beef,” Lambridis says. “That means the animals are tracked from day one and the farms never bring in additional animals from other feed lots. We believe if you are going to have ground beef, this is the kind of beef you should have.”

But for customers who don’t want beef, the chicken and turkey are free of antibiotics and hormones, too. And cholesterol-free soy veggie burgers are also available. The poultry is Airbaked like the fries, making the chicken strips and fries a popular kids meal with both moms and kids.

EVOS Homemade Organic Milkshakes are made with only certified organic milk and sugar and the Real Fruitshakes are made with fresh fruit and natural juices. Organic greens and nutrient-rich green-leaf lettuce—never iceberg or romaine lettuce—are used in the salads.

The menu at EVOS goes beyond burgers to include wraps like the popular Crispy Thai Trout wrap made from Airbaked trout, spicy peanut and chili pepper dressing, long- grain rice, organic field greens, and crispy rice noodles. Certified organic ingredients, as well as certified Fair Trade products, are used in the wraps and throughout the menu whenever possible. 

But the sustainability doesn’t end with the menu at EVOS. All the food is wrapped in recycled paper printed with soy-based inks instead of petroleum-based inks, and the cups and plastic to-go bags are biodegradable. Even EVOS gift cards are made of 100 percent recycled plastic from old credit cards. 

EVOS

COFOUNDERS: Dino Lambridis,
Alkis Crassas, & Michael Jeffers

HQ: Tampa, Florida

YEAR STARTED: 1994

ANNUAL SALES: Undisclosed

TOTAL UNITS: 9

FRANCHISE UNITS: 6 

www.evos.com

EVOS was the brainchild of Lambridis and his partners Alkis Crassas and Michael Jeffers, who found themselves driving around Florida looking for a healthy place to eat. When they couldn’t find one, the three college buddies decided to start one. 

“We didn’t want to do a health-food café,” Lambridis says. “We wanted a place where everybody could come—where the food was regular stuff like burgers, fries, and shakes, but didn’t make you feel guilty and didn’t make you feel sick after you ate them.”

Through those first few rough years, word of EVOS spread. Fans began calling themselves “EVO-maniacs” and customers helped finance expansion stores. In 2005, EVOS began franchising.

“We are on track to open three or four stores in 2010,” Lambridis says. “No one else out there is doing what we’re doing. But we’re not all about growth, growth, growth. We’re about doing things right, so we’re taking it slow.” 

EVOS stores are concentrated in the eastern U.S., with five stores in Florida, two in Georgia, and one in North Carolina. There is also a lone California location.

“The California location was not supposed to be a solo location,” Lambridis says. “But due to the economy it turned out that way for now.”

Future growth, wherever it takes place, will be the result of “careful planning,” he says. 

“EVOS got started out of necessity for us to be able to eat a quick burger, shake, and fries meal without guilt,” Lambridis says. “We want to provide that to other communities across the nation, but we also want to make sound decisions.”