Q&A With Saladworks' CEO, Patrick Sugrue
What about Saladworks makes it unique within its industry?
I think the availability of choice and control makes it unique. We’ve done the math, and with the 60 toppings that we offer and the different dressings, bases, greens and grains that are included on our menu, there are literally billions of salad combinations that we can make for you as a part of our Create Your Own salad option. And what differentiates us from the broad base of restaurants you see when you drive up and down main street USA is that there are limited options for fast food that are delicious and also healthy. We really are an exception to the rule when it comes to the majority of quick service restaurants.
What have been some of the brand's most important milestones over the past five years?
We took on new ownership a little over two years ago, and that ownership has gone above and beyond buying the business—they have seeded the brand’s development fund, and they have invested in company stores that we are opening in Atlanta, Dallas, and here in our core market of Pennsylvania. Over the last two years, our same-store sales are up over 12 percent on a two-year trend, while the industry as a whole is down to middle single digits over that same period of time. We have rebranded Saladworks, and are now positioned as a more current, streamlined brand with an innovative store design.
What plans does the brand have in the coming years?
To continue building on the momentum that we have right now, we are opening company stores in Dallas, Atlanta and Philadelphia. We are also franchising aggressively again, and have launched a food truck to facilitate the remodels of our stores while gaining opportunities to take our salads closer to the point of consumption. We’ve also expanded our product line to include ancient grains and specialized lettuce bases, and we launched new beverages like aguas frescas, made with vegetables, fruit and a very light agave sweetening. Those aguas frescas are a meaningful and differential part of our beverage offering. The Saladworks brand is also remodeling all of its stores to make them more relevant, contemporary and comfortable, and the next and logical step is to invest in training and training systems.
What does an ideal franchisee look like?
The ideal franchisee has some food experience, is highly motivated, and wants to own, lead and run their own business. They have a strong hospitality mind set, and they love to see people come into their restaurants and enjoy great, healthy food. They’re also willing to be a visible member of the community, and proactively join organizations like the Chamber of Commerce. Our local franchisees are known in their areas, and serve as an ambassador for the Saladworks brand day in and day out in all of the activities that they do. Someone who has those core characteristics and is also obviously capitalized in a way that puts them in a position to afford a restaurant build out and ongoing operation fees is the right candidate. They need to be able to lead a restaurant through the ups and downs of building, operations, ultimately leveraging the Saladworks brand to increase consumption frequency with our guests.
Why is Saladworks a good investment?
Saladworks has a 30-year track record, and we’re the industry pioneer when it comes to center-of-the-plate salads. Plus, our concept is more relevant today than it has ever been before. Baby Boomers have passed the torch to millennials, who are increasingly interested in eating delicious and nutritious food on the go. We’ve shifted to understand how to market to that core group, and we’re eager to cater to their climbing demand to learn more about where their food comes from. There has also been a seismic shift when it comes to the technology trend that impacts every industry. In the food industry, people are buying and ordering food from their cell phones, using kiosks when they enter the store and engaging POS systems that allow us to track their favorite salad configurations. Those trends all create a great opportunity for growth, and because we deliver state of the art technology, we’re really capitalizing on our position as an innovator. It’s an exciting time to be a part of the Saladworks brand!