New Year, new career, and a future full of opportunities. The start of 2020 was an incredibly exciting time for John Pisaturo as he was expecting to open his very own restaurant by mid-March. Only time could tell that his plans would soon unfold. Despite the difficulties of owning and operating a restaurant during the pandemic, John often reminded himself that “failure is not an option” and found a way to make things work.
Franchise Chatter (FC): Tell us about your background. What attracted you to the franchise industry and Saladworks?
John Pisaturo (JP): I have been in the restaurant industry my entire life. I started as a takeout window clerk for one of the local family-owned restaurants in Rhode Island when I was 18, and since then have held jobs as a front-of-the-house manager for hotel restaurants and national and local food chains. Before deciding to franchise on my own, I was the regional manager for a corporate dining group.
Owning my own restaurant always seemed very daunting and impossible but it was a dream I always had. My wife and I looked into venturing on our own versus franchising, but we valued the idea of having the support that a franchise team can provide. We wanted an innovative, growing franchise that served healthy and delicious food that we could be proud of. Saladworks was a good fit. We felt very comfortable after our initial meeting with the team during Discovery Day.
FC: What are some skills you learned working in the restaurant industry that have helped you succeed as a Saladworks owner?
JP: It helped that I had a good grasp of labor and food costs and managing teams. I also love engaging with customers and ensuring their satisfaction. I value my employees since I know how it is to be in the restaurant field your entire life.
FC: What are some challenges you faced while opening a Saladworks location during 2020?
JP: We were set to have a big grand opening with aggressive street marketing on March 25, but our state shut down 5 days right before that. I still remember having that conversation with Mike, my business coach, about deferring our opening, and it was a heartbreaking decision. We ended up delaying our opening to June, and even then, we had no in-store dining capability.
We are in a downtown location in Providence where we were relying on many offices and universities that unfortunately closed down or transitioned to remote work due to COVID-19. Our projected foot traffic for the store, which had been 400 people per hour during peak lunchtime daily, easily went down to almost nothing in an instant. Since we were downtown, our store location was also right in the middle of multiple riots protesting racial injustice.
FC: What are some ways your location has pivoted and how have these efforts helped your location?
JP: We are now up to 50% seating capacity so that has helped. We have focused on delivery and have promoted safe catering options as well. We have a consistent stream from third-party delivery services as well as Saladworks web orders. We are fortunate to have recently secured a weekly catering order for three area hospitals and have recurring weekly orders from a health plan.
We are working on increasing our Saladworks Rewards engagement and social media presence. For a business that has been open for 8 months, we have a combined social media following of 3,400 people. As we strive to provide consistently good food and reliable service, we are seeing our customer base grow.
FC: Because community involvement is a big focus for you, what strides do you take to give back to your local community?
JP: I have been a Rhode Islander my entire life so investing in my community is important to me. My wife and I see Saladworks as our larger platform to be able to give back to our community. When we opened during the pandemic, we donated food to one of the local area hospitals’ intensive care unit that was caring for COVID-19 patients. We have also donated food to the Izzy Foundation, a non-profit based out of Hasbro Children’s hospital that cares for families of children who are living with cancer.
For the last quarter of 2020, we celebrated Maddie Mondays, giving back to the Maddie Potts Foundation which promotes scholarship and youth activities through sports for local high schoolers. We were part of No Kid Hungry and raised money and awareness. We regularly use our social media platform to promote local entrepreneurs who focus on kindness and positivity.
FC: What are your future plans with your Saladworks location and beyond?
JP: We are hoping that as people get vaccinated, the economy will open up and downtown traffic will pick up again. Pre-pandemic, Providence was a bustling foodie and artsy city. We are not called the Creative Capital for nothing. The ultimate goal is for our family to open 3 Saladworks locations in Rhode Island. This pandemic may have delayed our plans, but we definitely will keep aiming for it. We are also very proud that our Providence location is recognized as a training store for the brand.
FC: What advice would you offer someone considering a Saladworks franchise? Any tips you can provide to help them succeed?
JP: My advice is, “Go for it!” Saladworks is a great brand. My team is very proud to serve healthy, quick-access delicious meals to our community. For most of our guests, we are helping them get to goals of healthy and mindful living. I would tell anyone starting a Saladworks franchise to access the knowledge and support of the Saladworks team as much as they can. Get involved as much as possible! Ask many questions! Only pick a brand and a team that you will be comfortable working with over the long term.
FC: How can someone learn more about Saladworks?
JP: The website saladworks.com walks you through a step-by-step process for potential franchisees. A member of the Saladworks team guided us through the entire process from initial inquiry all the way to store opening, and even beyond that. Despite the pandemic, we have seen the brand grow exponentially across the US and it has constantly been innovating. It’s exciting to know that we are a part of this growth and development. Saladworks promotes WOW moments, and while 2020 was challenging for us all, we have had our own WOW moments in Providence.