How Salad and Go solves the gap between health and affordability

Salad and Go’s mission is to eliminate the conflict between accessibility, affordability and wellness, according to CEO Charlie Morrison. Several brands are working on the same problem, but few have managed to match what Salad and Go has accomplished.

The model is simple. The chain is building 750-square-foot drive-thru double boxes where customers can order 48-ounce salad bowls. This product is loaded with romaine lettuce, mixed greens, and protein, and made from scratch with no additives or preservatives. Plus, guests receive the meal in less than four minutes and it only costs $6.99.

“For those of you who eat salads regularly, you probably know that the price is between $14 and $20. It’s ridiculous,” Morrison said at the ICR conference earlier this month. “And it doesn’t have to be that way.”

Morrison is frequently asked how Salad and Go can keep its prices so low. He begins by explaining the brand’s completely rebuilt supply chain. The company delivers farm products directly to a central kitchen. This is where workers cut, wash and prepare ingredients and also make from-scratch salad dressings, recipes and drink concentrates. Handling these tasks at the police station cuts down on a lot of work hours at the back of the house. Salad and Go takes these reduced staff costs and turns them into something affordable for the consumer. The chain can generate “great margins,” Morrison said, while paying store employees a minimum of $15 an hour and central kitchen workers up to $20 an hour.

Initially, the brand used its own trucks for distribution, but recently partnered with Performance Food Group to handle the last mile so it could focus solely on food and in-store fulfillment. A central kitchen can accommodate at least 400 units. There is one in Phoenix that will serve most of the Southwest and Southern California. A second in Dallas will cover Atlanta and the Midwest.

Morrison joined the Salad and Go board of directors in 2020, when he was CEO of Wingstop. He was immediately attracted by the fundamental principles of the channel and that is why he decided to take over as general manager in 2022.

“Most people who can eat salad every day can afford it. And that represents a very small segment of the population. Most people who want to eat salad but can’t afford it have a hard time, right? » said Morrison. “And they end up with what’s available and convenient, and it’s usually not as healthy and good for you.” So, unlocking the supply chain and doing what we do, we believe that the first real key to our social responsibility is accessibility and affordability and the combination of those two things. This is what is truly unique about this brand. This is what inspired me to make the change and leave Wingstop to run this business and build this brand.

Salad and Go has approximately 130 locations in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and Oklahoma. That’s an increase from about 25 outlets when Morrison became a board member. In 2023, the chain opened about one store per week on average and has future expansion plans that could take it “to thousands of restaurants,” the CEO said. All of this will be owned by the company, in part because of the supply chain setup. This year, Salad and Go will enter California, Kansas and Arkansas, then make its way further into the Southeast, likely Atlanta.

The company has spent the last 18 months building the infrastructure needed to grow the brand, including ERP systems, point-of-sale and back-office systems. Corey Horsch, a veteran of Sonic and Gordon Ramsey North America, was hired as CFO in May 2023. Nicole Portwood, with experience at Pepsi and Tito’s Handmade Vodka, was named CMO in October 2023.

Stores can be built for around $1 million. They come with a traditional drive-thru lane and an order-ahead lane (~20% digital mix).

“It gives us the opportunity to find pockets of unique real estate that others can’t get into,” Morrison said. “Some of the smaller coffee concepts have done this, and we’ve seen it where they have a very small box and we can fit into as little as 15,000 square feet, which means we can secure that site on a existing site. center. We don’t need to hit a difficult corner every time. We like it, but we don’t have to. It reduces the cost of the real estate itself as well as the costs of construction.

In addition to salads, the chain offers wraps, soups and a full breakfast menu. Theoretically, a customer could show up at 6:30 a.m. and order a breakfast burrito, cold brew or coffee and salad for lunch later in the day, all for $10. The afternoon is the largest part of Salad and Go’s day, but breakfast time makes up 20 percent.

The norm is for salad eaters to be higher income and thin women, but Salad and Go found that it appealed to diverse segments. This allows the channel to fit into DMAs with different income levels and demographics.

“Although our first users were salad eaters, what we were able to discover very quickly was a way to get people who wouldn’t eat as much salad to recognize how appetizing the food is, how how good the food tastes and how important it is. it’s about healthy eating,” Morrison said. “And that creates a very large customer segment. … It’s almost like coffee in terms of customer enthusiasm. We know how quickly they will try, how quickly they will repeat. And our customers’ frequency levels are off the charts, and it’s because of that great value. It’s cheaper than to go get a burger, fries and a Coke. It’s cheaper than any other salad opportunity. It’s definitely cheaper than going to the store and getting all the ingredients.

The next step is to build brand awareness. Salad and Go has 4 million users in its database and has access to data, such as their frequency patterns and when they redeem at different stores. The chain wants to work with these customers on an individual basis and understand when and why they purchase meals and how to encourage returning members.

Salad and Go is just getting started, Morrison said.

“The first job is to get the word out, tell people about it and build the brand,” the CEO said. “And then, secondly, we want to make sure that we execute exceptionally well. But barring other challenges that we could foresee and that we do not face, it is certain that the potential exists for thousands of sites.

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