For the past three decades, Saladworks has solidified its position as a major player in the salad-centric segment of the restaurant industry. With nearly 100 units, the brand is the largest salad franchise in the U.S., and it’s continuing to penetrate new markets at a rapid rate. That ongoing growth is due in large part to Saladworks’ commitment to innovation, which has been especially evident over the past few years.
After welcoming Patrick Sugrue as CEO in 2016, the brand set out on a mission to create a more uniform look and feel across its entire franchise system. Having been in business for 30 years, Saladworks had seen a lot of different logos and store designs. So, the brand introduced its franchisees to a new store design—and met with them all one-on-one—to discuss individual store requirements and key attributes of the look and feel. But Saladworks’ desire to position itself ahead of the competition hasn’t been limited to its outward appearance. The brand has also been hard at work maximizing the relevance of its brand.
That process started with intensive research—Saladworks conducted its own proprietary assessment of the salad-centric space. And now that the brand has that data at its disposal, it’s able to enhance its market to reach as many aspiring franchisees and guests as possible.
“The salad-centric market had never been sized. When we conducted our own research, the biggest ‘aha’ moment came in discovering how big that market really is. Finally being able to quantify the salad space means that we can size our products for both current and potential franchisees. Now we know that our segment is about a $10 billion market, which is significant,” said Steve McMahon, Saladworks’ CMO. “But more important than quantifying our market is identifying who we’re going to target. As health continues to become a bigger priority for consumers, more and more people are ordering salads for consumption away from their homes. That means that we have a bigger opportunity than ever before to reach new customers and build more meaningful relationships with our loyal guests.”
In its research, Saladworks found that there are six major segments of consumers. Two of those—fit cravers, who value health and wellness, and flexitarians, who are people who are reducing their meat intake without adhering to a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle—are their core audience. By narrowing down that field of end consumers, Saladworks is now able to strategically align its messaging and offerings with what those groups have come to expect from the salad-centric space.
“We’re just scratching the surface when it comes to potential for growth in the salad segment of the restaurant industry. There isn’t a national leader in the segment yet—most salad concepts are regionally based. We’ve set out to make Saladworks the fastest growing salad-centric brand in the country,” McMahon said. “We’ve introduced a new marketing strategy across our franchise system that’s helping our franchisees better reach our most frequent guests. By targeting them specifically, our franchisees are capturing more share in their markets.”
Saladworks is actively making changes to its marketing strategy based on its new identification of its core customers. That begins with its menu—the brand is making its signature recipes and ingredients more appealing to fit cravers and flexitarians. For the first time in its 30-year history, Saladworks launched a vegetarian LTO. The brand also continues to launch a series of clean ingredients as part of its new menu strategy. To spread the word about those new products, Saladworks has also shifted its marketing efforts to digital platforms, with a huge focus on social media. The brand recently launched a new loyalty app and continues to leverage that technology to recruit new guests and engage them. And Saladworks is making an effort to increase its speed of service while maintaining its standard of quality service and customizable options.
It’s clear that Saladworks’ efforts to improve its system and marketing strategies are working. While the industry is seeing sales decline across the board, Saladworks has had eight consecutive quarters of positive sales growth and expects to add a ninth. And with even more change to come in 2018, Saladworks is positioned for further success going forward.
“We’re in a better position now than we’ve ever been before. The changes that we’re making to our stores, menu and marketing strategies are all working together to ensure that Saladworks maintains its leadership position in the salad-centric category,” said McMahon. “We’re eager to continue introducing more changes to fully engage new and existing guests and make the most of our growth potential.”