Saladworks first opened its doors in 1986 and launched its first franchised location in 2001. After opening its 100th location in Howard Park, Maryland, on January 6, the made-to-order salad restaurant is setting its sights on providing guests with choice to consume their salads how they want them and where they want them in the great state of Ohio.
Proclaiming 2020 the Year of Originality, Saladworks believes in providing guests with fresh, healthy and flavorful choices that fit any lifestyle. The salad franchise offers more than 60 ingredients and seasonal varieties that allows guests to escape meal boredom with more options to create their own masterpiece.
“The state of Ohio offers us a great opportunity for organic growth,” says VP of Franchise Development Eric Lavinder. “Not only does it provide an adjacent territory to our market in Pennsylvania, but Ohio is also an extremely business-friendly state with responsible rent, market rates and great minimum wage.”
According to Lavinder, Ohio offers the perfect balance of a large population and minimal competition. With multiple primary markets such as Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio gives Saladworks the chance to expand into high-density areas that don’t have the same competition and reputation as oversaturated areas like New York City or Los Angeles.
“There is no other fast-casual, create-your-own salad concept in the Ohio area,” says Lavinder. “While the bigger cities are extremely competitive, there are not a ton of healthy concepts in Ohio’s markets. The state includes at least four cities that have been able to fly under the radar in terms of national recognition but still be incredibly successful for franchises.”
The four main cities that Saladworks has isolated as target markets are Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Dayton. According to Lavinder each of these cities is expected to successfully house twelve to fifteen potential markets, many of which may have more than one restaurant.
“We have done extensive market planning in Ohio,” says Lavinder. “An array of factors are considered to determine a demographic profile, such as income, lifestyle and real estate. With this information, we are able to determine the prospective amount of stores in each area.”
The lack of national attention geared toward America’s heartland provides franchisees the opportunity to claim first-mover advantage in an untapped location. While the healthy lifestyle concept is able to thrive anywhere in the U.S., Lavinder insisted that the Midwest correlates to an ideal customer base focused on convenient offerings with great value and eating plant-based diets.
“In the cities such as Columbus, there is a huge population of college-educated and Millennial customers,” says Lavinder. “The younger generation is moving toward plant-based and health-conscious foods. Saladworks has always done very well with well-educated, higher-income customer bases and many of Ohio’s bigger cities fit the profile.”
In fact, Lavinder has family in Cincinnati and has spent the past few years watching the downtown area expand into an ideal market for franchise development. Not only is the city growing, but the health concept options have remained minimal, providing Saladworks with the chance to corner the market.
In terms of his past concepts and experience, Lavinder said that he has always regarded Ohio as one of the top five states for franchise development. Saladworks has opened its first Ohio location inside of Columbus’ JP Morgan Chase corporate office.
The fresh salad brand is set up for optimal efficiency and ease for franchisees looking to open new restaurants. A no-cook model results in lower overhead because there is no need for a grill, hood or fryer. From a real estate standpoint, franchisees don’t have to worry about finding a second-generation restaurant to convert and instead can choose from a conveniently wide range of locations.
As the brand moves forward looking for franchisees in the Buckeye State, Lavinder points out that attitude is key. “Soft skills are really what makes or breaks a new franchisee,” says Lavinder. “While restaurant, franchise and business experience is a plus, we are really looking for franchisees who match our enthusiasm, energy, passion and motivation. We can teach all of the logistics but we can’t teach someone to serve customers with a smile or to have a positive attitude.”
Saladworks leverages an in-depth process for finding franchisees, including in-person Discovery Day corporate training. The company is not interested in selling franchises to every person that walks through the door; they instead hope to find the best possible match for the partnership.
“We are incredibly excited to expand into Ohio and the Midwest,” adds Lavinder. “While Saladworks works everywhere, we are confident that the Ohio markets will provide the perfect demographic, business-friendly rates and opportunity for explosive franchise growth.”
Growing through franchising to meet the rapidly increasing demand for healthier meal options, Saladworks is on pace to double in size, with 200 locations planned to open by the end of 2020. The company is expanding its franchise unit count through both traditional restaurant locations and nontraditional venues such as airports, military bases and universities. The brand plans for expansion into new markets including Minnesota, California, Florida, Colorado, Rhode Island, Indiana and Arkansas.
Current initial investment for Saladworks ranges from $163,724 – $452,292 which includes a $35,000 franchisee fee and has between $27,000 and $65,000 in tenant improvement allowance subtracted from the total.