When Patrick Sugrue came on board as Saladworks’ CEO and President in early 2016, he was presented with a challenge. As a small to mid-sized chain with nearly 100 units, he needed to figure out a way to provide franchisees with all the services and departments that major chains have, but to also remain profitable.
“There is a challenge to deliver better for you food in an economically viable way,” Sugrue said. “There is also a challenge to provide food in urban environments with labor approaching $15 an hour and rent that is approaching or going over $100 per square foot.”
So, what’s the best way to build out a strong team?
For Saladworks, Sugrue explains the importance of knowing when it’s time to contract help or hire talent on fulltime.
By contracting resources, Sugrue and his executive team create an external infrastructure. For example, Saladworks brought on a registered dietician named Katie Cavuto to create a revamped, cleaner and better for you menu including new salads, homemade salad dressings, grain bowls and toasts.
“We work very closely with her, and having her as part of the team allows us to be able to support the depth and breadth of work that needs to be done,” Sugrue said. “It helps us give our franchisees a thoughtful and nutritious menu to serve both existing and new consumers, when we aren’t in a place to have a fulltime chef on staff.”
This idea isn’t new to Sugrue who has been doing this for years, and has brought on several of external resources that have worked with him at other companies and therefore integrate very quickly with clarity of what is expected. To that end, Saladworks has built a network of vendors that are more like internal staff. The company has an entire network of professionals to call on, including an external consultant who provides HR outsourcing for the brand, a legal team, a branding team, and a PR team. These external resources bring with them industry experience and case studies that have proven to be invaluable as Saladworks continues to grow.
“When looking at providing franchisees with the best support, we review what things are most important at this stage of our strategy in helping franchisees find success and bringing guests through their doors,” Sugrue said. “Those are the things that we’ve got to have our greatest expertise and depth of experience continually focused on, and those things are where we need to have a fulltime headcount.”
And that’s when it becomes time to hire fulltime and to create the capability inside.
During the relaunch of the menu and new store design, the corporate team at Saladworks had been contracting construction expertise and project managers. During that time, the brand opened only a few stores, so they didn’t need a fulltime construction manager. However, now that they are in the midst of a growth spurt in both franchised and company stores, it became time to bring a construction manager onto the team.
“With 15 stores planned to open in the next year and 30 the following year, it was time to bring that expertise in-house with a full time construction manager to coordinate all the construction firms and projects for both company and franchise owned stores,” Sugrue said. “This is a good example of where the initial assessment is based on your strategy at that time. Two and a half years ago, it was more profitable for the brand to work with an outside expert on this, but now that we’ve designed a new prototype and are regularly building stores, it became more cost effective – and effective in general – to bring on a full time construction person.”
Another example of deciding it was time to hire a person to join the staff was Saladworks’ need to focus on the loyalty marketing program and its social media presence, with Millennials being a target audience of the brand. An intern was tasked with this role to start, until Saladworks recognized just how much work they were doing on social media and with the loyalty program. That prompted the team to put more resources in that area and to promote the intern to become a fulltime employee.
The strategy for Saladworks has worked extremely well for the brand. It’s allowed them to build upon a 30-year foundation while at the same time utilizing the tactics of a start up that make them not only effective, but efficient. Having enough full time head count to service a growing franchisee base while at the same time tapping into external resources has been a key part of the strategic planning process.
“Ultimately, we know how helpful it is to have access to a major level of expertise from the people we contract with, who have worked with dozens to hundreds of brands and can apply the technical rules of thumb. The people we choose to partner with are truly integrated in our business and act as an extension of our team, but they also know the industry’s best practices,” Sugrue said. “Once we need to elevate our fulltime needs based on the system’s needs, we know it’s time to hire someone to join our corporate staff. Regardless if we contract someone or hire an employee fulltime, both options are great. We are focused on doing what we need to do to benefit the entire system as we continue expanding with franchised locations and corporate stores.”
To learn more about Saladworks franchising, visit www.saladworksfranchising.com.