With more than 30 years of experience, Saladworks is the nation’s largest salad-centric restaurant with nearly 100 locations. Under CEO and President Patrick Sugrue’s leadership, the brand has undergone a major overhaul in the last two years, working aggressively to set franchisees up for success while also delivering a product and atmosphere that customers want to continue returning to.
Recently, Eric Lavinder joined the team as the Director of Franchise Development. Now, the brand is setting its sights on growing the Saladworks family of franchisees. To appeal to franchise candidates, Saladworks’ leadership has worked diligently to make restaurants as profitable as possible.
A key initiative that’s been in the works for over a year is around right sizing the footprint of Saladworks restaurants. The leadership team created a full size replica of a restaurant in vacant office space to determine what square footage was needed to service today’s consumer. After including every team member, outside vendors, equipment purveyors, architects and consumers, Saladworks’ leadership realized they could shrink the footprint from around 2,400 sq. ft. to storefronts that are closer to 1,600 sq. ft. With a focus on queue space, speed of service delivery and takeout optimization and efficiencies in prep, Saladworks will be able to lower not only the initial project investment but the ongoing occupancy cost.
Orhan Veli, a multi-unit franchisee with four locations and plans to take over ownership of two more restaurants, has been a franchisee since 2012 and thrives in a 1,500 sq. ft. location. The previous owners originally had a Saladworks that was over 3,000 sq. ft., before moving it to a different part of the strip mall in a 1,500 sq. ft. operation. Veli purchased it and grew his business from the small footprint. Veli was recognized at the Saladworks Brand Summit as part of the million dollar store club.
“I came in two years ago and it’s grown by 20 percent,” said Veli. “I’m also a Charley’s Philly Steaks franchisee, and my first location for that concept was 425 sq. ft. When I transitioned from that to Saladworks, it always felt like the space was a waste. Our seats are never full to capacity, and we’re paying for all this square footage but not truly utilizing it. We’re obviously saving a lot of money on rent and it also becomes very efficient operationally and in staffing. When it comes to food costs, it’s my best location. I’m ordering so efficiently so there is a much smaller chance anything will spoil or go missing.”
Veli is a prime testament to how Saladworks can be run optimally out of a smaller footprint. With the real estate changes, Saladworks was able to drop its total investment on the low end by more than $50,000. Saladworks strives not only to help franchisees grow their top line sales but achieve maximum potential on profitability. In 2016, the top tier of franchised location sales were an average of $1.1M, and in 2017, the top performers were above $1.2M in sales. See Item 19 of the brand's FDDs issued April 11, 2017, and April 10, 2018, for details.
As sales increased across the system due to a refreshed menu and upgraded interior, Saladworks celebrated nine consecutive sales of same-store sales growth. More impressively, this came at a time when many quick service restaurants struggled to see positive sales.
“If you drive up and down Main Street, U.S.A., you’ll see plenty of fast food restaurants, but options for healthy and convenient meals are few and far between,” said Sugrue. “As we track the growing trends across America, we know that more and more people are desiring cleaner eating and plant-based diets. We are meeting this demand with our fresh and innovative menu items.”
For potential franchisees, tracking America’s trend moving to healthier eating points to an ever increasing influx of guests in your restaurants, but there is another bonus for operators. Saladworks is an easy concept to operate. There are no hoods or fryers. It is an asset and equipment light concept that also makes it flexible for non-traditional locations.
“We know airports work for us, so that’s an option, and we also have proven that Saladworks does well on college campuses and even in a grocery store,” said Lavinder. “Our Temple University location has been wildly successful, so we’re looking to duplicate that model on other college campuses. Our flexible platform lets franchisees operate successfully in a strip center or non-traditional locations. Franchisees can put these stores in areas with major foot traffic and have a chance to see a strong flow of customers.”
With nearly 100 locations, primarily in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Saladworks franchisees have vast available territory in contiguous and emerging markets.
“Saladworks is looking forward to expanding our presence to the Dallas and Atlanta markets. With corporate stores in both areas opening in 2018, we’re actively looking for qualified franchise partners who want to fill in those metro areas,” said Sugrue. “Our concept is primed for franchisees looking for a lucrative opportunity because it’s on trend, easy to run, and has plenty of strong territory and real estate availability.”