EVOS Tampa puts healthy, sustainable twist on fast food

by Sydney Rhodes

EVOS Tampa, a natural, organic and vegetarian friendly restaurant, is one of Tampa’s most renowned franchises. The restaurant is an Earth Charter winner and industry recognized leader in green business practices with five stores in Florida, two in Georgia, one in North Carolina and one in California.

So what makes EVOS so special? The all-American fast food style restaurant takes burgers, fries and shakes to a healthy, guilt free level by using organic ingredients and “Airbaking.”

By using Airbake technology, EVOS uses a special oven that heats to 450 degrees and bakes the common deep-fried foods with a small amount of vegetable oil. Creating food with 50 to 70 percent less fat than usual. Airbaking is part of the EVOS experience, which confirms the company’s slogan: “Feel great fast food.”

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

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

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

The restaurant also uses chicken and turkey that is free of antibiotics and hormones. EVOS’s homemade, organic milkshakes are made with only certified organic milk and sugar as well as  fresh fruit and juices.

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

But the sustainability doesn’t end at the menu. All of EVOS’s food is wrapped in recycled paper, which is printed with soy based inks. The cups and plastic togo bags are biodegradable and the EVOS gift cards are made of recycled plastic credit cards.

Not only are many products at EVOS earth friendly, but the majority of the physical buildings are as well.

“We’re very proud of our sustainable buildings,” said co-founder Michael Jeffers. “It’s what makes us different and stand out from the competition and it doesn’t just stop at our buildings either. We’re always looking for ways to lower our ecological footprint.”

EVOS paints the stores with ZERO VOC paints. This means that there are no petrochemical based solvents, which normally release indoor air pollutants and pollute the environment as well.

The tables within each location are made with FSC certified wood and are 20 percent recycled from post consumer waste. Additionally, the wallpaper inside the restaurants are also made from ten percent post consumer waste.

“Basically, all the furniture in our buildings are recycled,” said Jeffers. “We were able to take recyclable items from our first EVOS locations and transform it into a place to sit and eat for our customers.”

In addition, EVOS offsets 50 percent of store energy with renewable wind energy. The physical buildings are built with recycled wood panels made from pressed sorghum plant stalks and eco-friendly flooring and building materials, according to Jeffers.

So, where did the idea come from? Lamridis and Jeffers found themselves driving around Florida one day, looking for a healthy place to eat. When they couldn’t find one, the college buddies decided to open their own in 1994.  

“We didn’t want to do a health food cafe,” Lambridis says. “We wanted a place where everyone could come eat 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.”

The idea of EVOS quickly spread between the public and customers helped finance the expansion stores. In 2005, EVOS began franchising and opened four stores by 2010.

“EVOS got started out of necessity for us to be able to eat a quick meal without the guilt of fast food,” said Jeffers. “We want to provide that to other communities across the nation, but we also want to make sound delicious.”

A regular EVOS customer, Sally Vaughan, said she recently has been trying to eat healthier, but that doesn’t mean healthy food has to be flavorless.

“I love this place,” said Vaughan. “The air frying method they use saves calories but also makes the food taste better in my opinion. It’s nice not to taste grease dripping from my burger and fries like at most restaurants.”

As EVOS continues to impress many customers around the Tampa area, the co-founders are looking for more ways to enhance the sustainability within the company.

Sydney Rhodes can be reached at sydney.rhodes@theminaretonline.com

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