When we’re busy and stressed, we tend to think less about what we eat and more about how quickly we can eat it in order to get back to what we need to accomplish. Eating healthy can feel hard or a stress in its own right.
That’s what led Jill Minton and her husband Brandon to open t.Loft. They realized that people needed a place where they could eat well and find a way to work healthy eating habits into their daily routine.
“We’re here to offer what we feel will make you feel good and healthy in a fun and convenient way,” Jill Minton says. “We’re trying to help people realize that healthy can be delicious.”
On a recent Wednesday afternoon, Minton sits in a chair across from the hanging swing benches that Brandon has built for the t.Loft in Park Place. She’s thinking about the health café’s latest chapter – a new location on the Country Club Plaza is in the works -- and new menu.
T.Loft’s original location opened in April 2013 at 8025 State Line Road in Kansas City, Missouri. The initial menu focused on juices and teas and grab-and-go items (protein balls, lettuce wraps). These were foods that helped Minton’s own family. She, along with her father, sister [who owns and operates a t.Loft in Lawrence with their mother] and daughter, have celiac disease. What she and her husband didn’t account for was how t.Loft would change his life.
“I played college sports and then I went into the work world and got out of my work out routine,” Brandon Minton says. “But when we opened t.Loft I had all this healthy stuff in front of me. I made a routine of eating right. I got the energy to start working back out and I lost 75 pounds in six months.”
It’s two years later and Brandon Minton has kept his weight stable. His own experience and a loyal customer following has led to the evolution of t.Loft’s menu concept. While the opening focus was on portability, Minton made the decision to shift to hot and cold bowls that have eggs, legumes or grains.
“You can’t compete with fresh food and this allowed us to adjust good food to whatever someone’s goals or dietary needs are,” Minton says.
T. Loft doesn’t advocate a single health concept or trend, but instead tries to be as transparent as possible about what’s in a given dish in order to allow customers to make informed choices. The menu breaks out the calories, carbohydrates and protein numbers for each item.
“We want you to know what you’re getting and make a conscious decision,” Minton says.
A pair of quinoa bowls have been popular since appearing on the menu – the Spicy Buffalo Quinoa Bowl (made with chicken, avocado, celery, carrots, blue cheese and hot sauce on a bed of quinoa) and the Grecian Lentil Bowl (chicken, cucumbers, tomatoes, red peppers, goat cheese and a lemon balsamic over lentils).
“We believe whole food is the best food,” Director of Operations Meghan Doherty says.
Tea and juice still form the backbone of t.Loft. Minton steers new customers toward the Mean & Clean – what she calls “adult orange juice.” It’s a zesty blend of orange, ginger, carrot, apple and lemon juice. For those looking to get more green leafy vegetables in their diet – kale and spinach are staples at t.Loft – Alive and Alert (a blend of kale, spinach, grape, peach, apple and ginger) is a standard order.
“The Alive and Alert is good for you, but you don’t know it,” Doherty says. “It’s green and it’s got this nice mix of fruits and veggies.”
In an effort to help people remain mindful, even when they’re busy, t.Loft also has protein balls made with dates, peanut butter and sunflower butter.
“It’s a healthy treat or a snack. You can have those instead of a breakfast bar,” Doherty says.
As t.Loft moves toward the direction of a café, Minton knows that her customers will continue to have a variety of dietary needs and ideas they’re exploring. And she also understands that the best way to help them meet their needs is to make it easy.
“We know that people are coming in for fuel, whether they have a fitness goal or simply want somebody else to make lunch,” Minton says. “We take what we know and try to help people be where they want to be.”