Coolgreens has a new owner and a fresh revamped menu 

Priscila Solis prepares an order for a customer in the Downtown OKC Coolgreens, 9-11-15. - MARK HANCOCK
  • Mark Hancock
  • Priscila Solis prepares an order for a customer in the Downtown OKC Coolgreens, 9-11-15.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

To that, Coolgreens CEO Scooter Aselton said, “Ha,” and, “Watch me.”

Perhaps the casual diner did not think Coolgreens was broken, but Aselton said it was going broke. That’s what brought Aselton and his investment group to Oklahoma City. They saw a concept that needed help to stay alive and change to make it thrive again.

“Coolgreens has all the things you look for in a restaurant,” he said. “The color, the concept, new and fresh flavors, a bustling lunch crowd, millennials and women.”

But it was also stagnating. The dressings were made in Texas. The cookies were inedible. The chicken was dry, the pizza was flavorless and the sandwich bread had no give.

Coolgreens grew so quickly that it couldn’t keep up with its supply chain, and a dip in product and service quality meant customers who might come in more often didn’t consider the eatery a go-to option for lunch or dinner.

So, when Aselton and company took over, they had their work cut out for them.

Less, more

First, he went about preserving what made the restaurant so desirable to begin with: freshness.

“We pay top dollar to make sure we’re getting produce at peak freshness,” he said. “When we talk to customers, they can tell the difference. They appreciate what we’re doing.”

click to enlarge Owner Scooter Aselton with new and seasonal menu Items, from left, Southwest Spicy Wrap, Lemon Lychee Chicken Salad, the seasonal Summer Berry Salad, Sriracha Chicken Sandwich, and one of his favorites, the new Plaza Skinny Flatbread, at the Downtown OKC Coolgreens, 9-11-15. - MARK HANCOCK
  • Mark Hancock
  • Owner Scooter Aselton with new and seasonal menu Items, from left, Southwest Spicy Wrap, Lemon Lychee Chicken Salad, the seasonal Summer Berry Salad, Sriracha Chicken Sandwich, and one of his favorites, the new Plaza Skinny Flatbread, at the Downtown OKC Coolgreens, 9-11-15.

A perfectionist at heart, Aselton went about tasting and testing everything and asking difficult questions. It’s not enough to say, “That’s how it’s been done,” he said.

Every flavor on the menu was reformulated, even those that sold well. Salad dressings and sauces are now made in-house from local, fresh ingredients. Pecans come from Mason’s Pecans & Peanuts in Norman. The honey comes from Edmond.

Aselton said they amped up flavors while keeping calorie counts low — no easy feat.

He also taught employees to ask customers how much they want. It was easy to dump more dressing on just about everything, but that’s not always what people want, especially when they order fresh produce. Now, they ask diners if they want light, medium or heavy dressing. And because the flavors are so vibrant, Aselton said, less dressing is required.

He calls Coolgreens sandwiches the company’s best-kept secret.

“Sandwiches are really all about the filling,” he said. “We were using a ciabatta, which is what everybody uses. The flavor is tired, and it’s just not a good sandwich bread. You take the first bite and it all squirts out the other end.”

Sriracha Chicken Sandwich, at the Downtown OKC Coolgreens, 9-11-15. - MARK HANCOCK
  • Mark Hancock
  • Sriracha Chicken Sandwich, at the Downtown OKC Coolgreens, 9-11-15.

The whole-wheat buns used now are softer and have a richer, more earthy base flavor, he said, which readies the palate for great fillings and flavors.

“Not everybody wants a salad for lunch,” he said. “Now you can decide on a sandwich and be happy with your choice.”

Sweet treats

Aselton’s biggest breakthrough is one he wants to use as a reward for everyone.

“I’m a cookie connoisseur,” he said. “We took four months developing these cookies.”

What used to be an afterthought is now a big seller. Stores go through 800 cookies daily, and they’re going so fast, they bring in chocolate 25 pounds at a time. The flavor is sweet, salty and rich. But this surprise perhaps tastes best: Each cookie is only 200 calories and made without butter.

Watching customers take their first bites of the new Coolgreens confection brings a look of satisfaction to Aselton’s face. Creating a dessert so delicious you don’t have to eat it to feel good is quite an accomplishment.

Changes will soon reach a wider audience, too. After re-opening its downtown location at 204 N. Robinson Ave., the chain is set to open a store on Campus Corner in Norman, and Aselton and company are looking to expand into Tulsa.

As the once-struggling company regains its footing and its target demographics, the only thing Aselton has to save is room for one more cookie.

Print headline: New attitude, Coolgreens freshens its menu and its ingredients as it focuses on locally sourced, flavorful fare.

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