In 2008, Anthony Pigliacampo and Rob McColgan were two young professionals looking for a place to have a healthy lunch on a regular basis. When they couldn’t find one, the pair decided to create one. They pooled their knowledge to create Modmarket.
“We felt very strongly that there needed to be better options for healthy eating,” Pigliacampo says. “We thought there should be more than Chipotle and Whole Foods.”
What they created was a fast-casual restaurant with farm-to-table food made from scratch in less than 10 minutes. “We had to engineer the menu and how we produced food,” Pigliacampo says. “That meant thinking about the interplay of the menu items and how we use items over categories.”
Pigliacampo and McColgan worked on the concept for about a year before they opened the first Modmarket location in Boulder in 2009. The menu includes salads, soups, sandwiches, brick-oven pizzas, and Homestyle Plates, which consist of a protein such as roasted or barbecue chicken, steak, or tofu, plus two side choices.
A popular lunch item is the Superfood Salad, which includes quinoa pilaf, Feta cheese, almonds, and strawberries atop a spinach and kale blend. Guests can also add roasted chicken. As the restaurants source ingredients based on seasonal availability, some are subject to change. For example, when it’s not strawberry season, the salad will feature grapes instead.
“Most people appreciate that a salad shouldn’t have strawberries year-round. We don’t have to explain that. Our menu has seasonal items, so people draw the conclusion that things might be changing here,” Pigliacampo says.
Cofounders: Anthony Pigliacampo &
Year Started: 2009
Annual Sales: $2 million AUV
Total Units: 9
Franchise Units: 0
At dinner, the brick-oven pizzas are popular. The brand’s whole-grain dough is made from scratch in-store, and specialty choices include the M’Rita with Mozzarella, red sauce, and basil. Whole pizzas are 12 inches, while half pizzas can be ordered at lunchtime.
“You can break down all of our food and follow it back to the farm without a factory in between,” Pigliacampo says. “You’ll find whole skin-on potatoes, whole tomatoes, apples, pears, and bags of basil.”
He says the tomatoes used to make pizza sauce are organic, but due to cost constraints, not all of Modmarket’s ingredients are.
By watching costs, Modmarket has achieved a $9 per-person check average for all dayparts. That includes breakfast, which was added with the third location’s opening. “In the fast-casual segment, breakfast is fairly underserved,” Pigliacampo says. “We’re somewhere between Starbucks or Panera Bread and a full sit-down breakfast.”
A popular breakfast item is the Chipotle Egg sandwich, made with hormone- and antibiotic-free bacon, chipotle aioli, tomato, and Provolone cheese on ciabatta bread, which comes from a local Colorado bakery. The decision to serve breakfast has garnered Modmarket two prime spots in the Denver International Airport to serve healthy food to air travelers.
Those who like to keep score nutrition-wise can do so at Modmarket. Each customer gets a receipt that shows the nutritional content of their order, including calories, protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
“It starts a conversation,” Pigliacampo says. “We tell you exactly what the breakdown of your meal is, and you can start learning.”
With an appealing position in the fast-casual segment and health-forward messaging, Modmarket is on track to build 10–12 stores in 2015 and to continue growing at that pace for several years. Pigliacampo says the long-term goal is to cement the brand’s status nationally.
Modmarket’s team is continuing to open stores in Colorado, recently moved into Texas, and is looking at other reasonable-sized markets close to Colorado. However, there are no plans to start franchising. “It’s a tough concept to franchise,” Pigliacampo says. “It’s hard to make scratch food all day long in several markets. That’s why no one else is doing it.”
He says Modmarket trains people how to cook, “not just how to scoop and serve. … New employees come in and don’t know how to cook, so we take our scratch-cooking processes and break them down.” The training programs teach new employees knife skills and how to cook proteins with the restaurant’s equipment.
As an added incentive, all Modmarket employees can enjoy the brand’s food for free, allowing them to experience the food they are cooking and serving. “Our teams eat amazingly-better-for-you food every day,” Pigliacampo says. “One guy lost 40 pounds after we hired him.”