Fast-casual Saladworks began expanding into grocery store settings in the Philadelphia area in 2019. Boosted by early success, the brand will pursue more grocery store opportunities in Delaware, Maryland and New York, as well as in airports, military bases and office buildings. CMO Mark Mears and Head Chef Katie Cavuto have used some innovative operational and culinary strategies to set down roots in the produce section, and they’ve shared some insights with Progressive Grocer.
PG: First, I’d like to begin with the topic that is top of mind: How has your business been affected by the coronavirus pandemic? How about your food prep practices, sourcing, etc.?
PG: Do you notice any differences in the customer bases between your stand-alone settings and grocery stores?
MM: The basic demographics are the same, but the psychographics are different; customers are less meal-driven and more driven by shopping. The mindset is, “I have my list, but hey, Saladworks’ take-home is intriguing.” Our outreach has also been really different. We have looked at ShopRite’s strategies and followed their lead with traditional grocery store strategies like direct mail, circulars, menus stuffed in bags, in-store signage, sampling, daily specials, etc. We’ve learned a lot.
Roasting vegetables brings out a rich sweetness of flavor. Add warm grains, bacon, some nice cheese and other “a little goes a long way” indulgences, and you have a deeply satisfying salad. Our soups are also a natural choice for comfort food.
MM: I would add that putting that salad in a wrap creates a comforting meal because hand-helds are a tactile way to eat.
PG: Anything else in the pipeline you can discuss or tease us with?
KC: In menu R&D, we are working with tofu, smoky roasted chickpeas, za’atar-spiced cauliflower and more options that embody our fresh, flavorful, plant-centric approach.
MM: The COVID-19 crisis prompted some of our franchisees to take meals to people working on the front lines in hospitals. We were so impressed by this that we’ve developed the Five for Lives program, which funds a free meal to health care workers and hospitals for every $5 the guest chooses to donate on top of their order. We pride ourselves on being a brand with a heart, and we want to give nutritious meals to heroes who are going without sleep and with no time to eat.