Kevin and Nanci Dueck hope their new restaurant, The Chopped Leaf, brings a healthy dining alternative to Federal Way.
The Duecks opened the first U.S. location of the Canadian-based franchise May 9 in the Federal Way Crossings shopping center at South 348th Street and Pacific Highway South.
The Chopped Leaf offers fast, fresh and healthy food including salads, wraps and bowls.
“About three-plus years ago, we were looking for some areas to invest our money in, and we didn’t want to do stock or something where we didn’t have a lot of skin in the game,” Kevin Dueck said. “We were actually looking for something we could put some sweat equity in as well.”
The couple, who lives in the Federal Way area, began researching franchise opportunities and came across The Chopped Leaf.
“At the time they only had about 15 stores,” he said. “We found them through some kind of business review online. For some reason it caught our attention because we are both into fitness and health and being active. And, we didn’t have a lot of healthy options down here.”
After taking a trip to Canada to try out the franchise, the Duecks fell in love with the food and brand. They approached the owner about opening a location in the U.S.
“That was like three years ago,” Nanci Dueck said. “It has taken a long time. The registration process to get into the U.S. was a beast, and we had lots of ups and downs. We probably almost pulled out of it at least a dozen times.… But, we just loved the concept and the brand and everybody in it.”
The Chopped Leaf is about making healthier options accessible, she said.
“It is not 100-percent clean eating,” Nanci Dueck said. “It’s not the healthiest ever eating. It is trying to make it so that everyone can try to eat better.”
Although the Duecks don’t have a background in the restaurant industry, they were drawn to the The Chopped Leaf’s concept of fresh food. Kevin, a graduate of Decatur High School, comes from a corporate background after having worked in information technology for several companies including Weyerhaeuser. Nanci has been raising the couple’s five children, several of whom work part time at the restaurant.
“There’s a lot of places you can feel good as you are eating, but afterwards do you say ‘I feel good that I knocked down that pizza and root beer?’ ” Kevin said. “Here you feel like I am full, it was delicious and I feel good.”
The Chopped Leaf’s menu features chef-crafted bowls, wraps and salads. Customers can also customize their own creations.
“We have a lot of people that are excited we are here because of dietary needs – lots of phone calls about gluten-friendly option and vegan options,” Nanci said, adding that most of the dressings are gluten-friendly and several are vegan.
Many menu items can be made gluten-free or vegan. Chopped water is another popular menu staple.
“We are getting people drinking more water and we do it by doing fruit infusion,” Kevin said.
The combination of the fruit-infused water changes at least every couple of days, and has included varieties such as strawberry-pineapple and lime-cucumber-mint.
In the first week of the restaurant’s opening, the feedback has been good, the Duecks said.
“Everyone has been really excited,” Kevin said. “Everyone we talk to is like ‘we need this down here. There’s no fresh, fast casual that is more healthy.’”
Customers are already suggesting locations for the next restaurant.
“We would like to grow and expand,” Nanci said. “If we do well, we would definitely like to expand.”
The restaurant also offers catering, online ordering and plans to have delivery soon.
The Chopped Leaf, 35002 Pacific Highway S., is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and closed on Sundays.