When John Scardapane (then a gourmet chef at a country club in southern New Jersey) pitched his concept for Saladworks to Cherry Hill mall execs over 25 years ago, he was told that a salad only business would never work and was prodded to add sandwiches to the menu. But when Saladworks outsold all of the mall’s hamburger and pizza franchises in its first year of operations, the sandwiches were quickly dropped and the country’s first salad-only franchise concept was born.
Saladworks is now the nation’s largest fresh-salad franchise, with 100 locations in 12 states and more than 60 units in development.
Franchise Chatter (FC): For those unfamiliar, please tell us about your food? What is unique about your menu compared to other food franchises specializing in salads?
John Scardapane (JS): We offer all customers the opportunity to create their own fresh salad, expertly prepared in front of them by a Saladworks team member, from over 50 fresh ingredients found in our famous salad case. We also offer a variety of signature salads, including the Buffalo Bleu and Fire Roasted Cabo Jack, which average less than 300 calories.
Every ingredient is chopped fresh daily in every location across the country ensuring the highest quality salads served at the peak of freshness. Top it off with original recipe dressings, including classics like Royal Caesar and the fan favorite, Zesty Green Goddess.
In addition, we offer complimentary menu items such as wraps, fusion sandwiches and proprietary soups.
FC: Can you describe the ideal franchisee for a Saladworks restaurant?
JS: We can teach you the elements of our business, but the most important assets are organizational and people skills, work ethic, enthusiasm and adherence to our tried and proven standards. Any prior experience in food service, retail or business management is also helpful but not necessary.
FC: What is the ideal neighborhood and territory for a Saladworks restaurant? In what regions of the country do you see the strongest demand for your brand?
JS: The ideal territory is one that possesses potential customers who are looking for a healthy lunch around their work or home. Saladworks offers them fresh, made-to-order, entrée sized salads as an alternative food offering for consumers on the go. These customers are affluent, possess disposal income and range in demographics from young to old and male to female.
With the increase in demand for healthy food served quickly, Saladworks is in demand both in the United States and abroad.
FC: What specific steps do your most successful franchisees take in order to build and grow their respective businesses?
JS: Our most successful franchisees take the 25 year history of Saladworks and use the systems and processes that we have in place to run their restaurant. It is imperative that franchisees understand and embrace Saladworks’ mission statement and values.
Most importantly, they hire to our core values of “do the right thing,” “passion to be the best,” “do whatever it takes to get it done,” “value each other,” “best people,” and “it’s all about the customer” and focus their training efforts not only on the fundamentals of product but also on providing a fanatical service experience.
In addition, our most successful franchisees leverage the brand marketing plan through their own local store marketing to increase trial and frequency in their restaurants.
FC: What are some of the things you are doing to help your franchisees become profitable?
JS: Saladworks negotiates competitive national pricing with vendors to help franchisees with their profit margins.
During our training program, a heavy emphasis is placed on profitability and variable cost control. Franchisees are offered ongoing training in profit and loss management. In addition, our business coaches are expertly trained to assist franchisees in maximizing profitability on an ongoing basis.
FC: Franchisees across the board, but especially in the food category, are sensitive to the issue of franchisors profiting excessively from supplier and vendor kickbacks. What can you say about Saladworks’ policies to ease these concerns?
JS: Saladworks negotiates with the growers and manufacturers of our products across the country to ensure that our franchisees receive product that is not only quality but also has negotiated pricing. The rebates from those manufacturers are put into Saladworks’ brand development fund used to market the system.
FC: Every industry has its own unique challenges. What are some challenges in this line of business that your prospective franchisees need to be aware of?
JS: The biggest challenge of the restaurant business is for the franchisee to manage the business and not allow the business to manage him or her. Paying equal attention to both the front of the house operations as well as the business side with profit and loss management can be challenging for a new franchisee. Our team is there to ensure that we assist with both sides of the business.
FC: Can you tell us a bit about the initial investment and ongoing expenses to open and operate a Saladworks restaurant? What is the profit potential for your franchise?
JS: The turn-key range for opening a Saladworks restaurant is between $331,102 and $474,527. In addition, we estimate that franchisees may need another $12,700 to $19,500 for working capital for the first three months of operation.
Ongoing fees are 5% royalty, 3% brand development fund (1 1/2 % in mall locations).
The potential profit for our franchisees is really dependent on each and every location. Specific details about cost percentages can be found in our Franchise Disclosure Document.
FC: What are your goals for Saladworks in the next few years and how do you plan to grow your business?
JS: Saladworks has over 100 locations in 12 states and will continue its expansion across the United States, opening a projected 25 locations in 2012. Saladworks has more than 70 additional stores in development. Saladworks will open its first of 15 locations in Singapore in 2012 and will continue international expansion.
Saladworks is the number one salad franchise in the nation serving America’s Best Salads and will continue to increase its national and international success in the years to come.
FC: Finally, what advice can you give prospective franchisees on how to evaluate the overwhelming number of franchise opportunities available to them?
JS: Look for a franchise with integrity and a commitment to serving its franchisees as its most important customers. Support from the franchisor is integral to a franchisee’s success so be sure to partner with a franchise that can support successful growth.
Saladworks has an experienced home office team with over 120 years of combined experience. They will assist with site selection, lease negotiation, construction, store opening, ongoing operations, cutting edge product development, marketing, public relations and social media, business education, information technology, distribution and procurement and much more.