Saladworks, the nation’s first and largest fresh-tossed salad franchise concept with 105 units, has set out to become America’s only nationally recognized salad restaurant with a strategic growth plan, a new store design and an updated menu.
Founded in 1986, the company began franchising in 2001. By 2008, the brand grew rapidly to 100 units while gaining a fanatical customer following. The company executives have put a plan in place for Saladworks to grow from a popular regional chain to a national presence in the salad franchise segment.
Overseeing the brand upgrades are longstanding employees Paul Steck, president and CEO, Rich Palladino, CFO, and Jena Henderson, vice president of Brand Services. Together, they have a combined 37 years of Saladworks experience. The team has a passion for healthy dining and living, and they are positioning the brand with an innovative, new menu and more efficient and modern store design to take the 105-store brand to more than 150 locations in the next two years.
“I’m a 13-year employee of this brand and my primary focus is to work with our franchise community to decide what we can improve to make this company the best it has ever been as we prepare to double in size,” Steck said. “Our franchisees have come to us with feedback and ideas that the corporate team has been able to embrace and come up with our strategic plan to become the dominant national player in the fresh-tossed salad race.”
Saladworks is currently beefing up the corporate staff with five new hires in 2015, and more corporate hiring planned in the coming months. A top priority for the executive team is adding increased support, while also finding ways to collaborate with franchisees, as they focus on brand growth.
While preparing to take ownership of the industry on a national level, one main change on the horizon is a fresh, new menu. The company created a Research & Development task force—consisting of seven franchisees working together with corporate team members—that has been diligently developing a new menu that will be rolled out in January to better meet customer needs and drive sales. The menu focuses on the health trends that consumers want, and guests can expect to see more kale, quinoa, roasted Brussels sprouts and farm-to-table influences in the future.
“We asked our franchisees what they want to see on the menu,” Henderson said. “They’re the ones serving salads all day and talking to customers. We wanted them to tell us the ingredients we need to add and the new types of salads that people in the stores are telling them that they want to eat.”
Saladworks’ customers are exceptionally loyal. The brand has always enjoyed a uniquely high customer retention rate. Twenty percent of guests self-describe themselves as heavy users, averaging 17 visits per month. Fifty percent of the company’s revenue is generated from this segment of its customer-base of true brand fans—a number that any other restaurant brand would be hard-pressed to showcase.
“The top 20 percent of our customer base really, really loves the product, and they have stayed loyal over the years. It’s important to us to give fresh options to our fanatical customers while capturing more market share with our new menu offerings,” Henderson said.
In addition to updating the menu, another important element in refreshing the brand was to create a store design that is more space-efficient and offers a better return on investment for franchisees. By focusing on the right size location, franchisees will see lower startup costs as well as an improved fixed cost amount on a monthly basis. The updated store design will be unveiled in Q1 of 2016 with a new look and feel that focuses on a more natural ambiance exuding freshness, sleek lines and a modern approach to sustainability.
“With all other salad chains only having regional recognition, Saladworks—with the largest store count and longest history in its segment—is already in an excellent position to be the most successful and well-recognized player in the space,” Steck said. “With a new menu, efficient store design providing significant ROI, an aggressive franchise development plan, and an experienced and strong leadership team, Saladworks will undoubtedly achieve this goal within the next five years.”
With 105 locations operating in 14 states, the brand is currently eyeing expansion in major cities across the Northeast from Boston to Washington D.C., aiming to open more than 10 locations in 2016.