“It’s not enough just to make me happy,” says Phil Friedman, CEO of Salsarita’s Fresh Mexican Grill, “on the contrary this whole year of 2017 has been focused on producing higher restaurant sales and profits for our franchisees.”
The popular restaurateur who has been behind the growth of chains such as McAlister’s Deli, a fast-casual chain with more than 300 locations and Panda Express shares a secret. “It’s not just selling one restaurant after another,” he emphasizes, “it’s finding the best operations person and then together growing and increasing same store sales.”
In this case Friedman tapped someone he knew could get the job done. Ken Green became president and COO last spring to continue to put the chain, known for its depth of authentically inspired menu choices, into high gear. Green has a long track record of success. While COO of the McAlister’s Deli brand, Green developed and implemented a more cost-effective store prototype and streamlined and introduced a more contemporary menu that included hand-tossed salads and a line of panini sandwiches. Green was also instrumental in leading Friendly’s Ice Cream, a chain of more than 500 family-style restaurants, out of a multi-year traffic decline.
2016 brought new units in Lewisville, Tyler, and Ft. Worth TX, West Columbia, SC, Powell, TN and Tupelo, MS, Madison, AL and Asheville, NC.
2017 saw seven units open located in Evansville, IN, (first drive thru location), Ooltewah, TN, Rock Hill, SC., Boiling Springs, SC, Morristown, TN., Killian Road in Columbia, SC, and Prosperity Church Road in Charlotte, NC.
“We’re focusing a lot on our existing franchisee partners,” says Ken Green. “In total, we have 32 franchise groups and there are some amazing restaurant operators among them. We want to partner more with them while adding additional franchisees of their caliber to the system.”
At least six new restaurants are in the pipeline to open in the first half of 2018. And Director of Marketing, Kelly O’Dell has also focused on continued charity efforts to bond the system together so everyone can get “the good feeling that comes from helping others,” O’Dell says. For example, Salsarita’s hopped right on to the awful hurricane crises and partnered up with The Salvation Army to raise a total of $22,000 in the first week of relief efforts.
Other similar programs and efforts are in play and will continue in 2018 including raising funds for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Charlotte in partnership with Carolina Panthers linebacker Shaq Thompson and a “No Kid Goes Hungry” campaign to which the equivalent of 190,000 meals were donated in 2017.
2017 brought the company’s first drive-thru location, the successful completion of a new brand image including logo and prototype (see below) and a new online ordering system.
“2018 will be a great year of attracting strong multi-unit franchisees, building drive-thru locations, remodeling and updating older locations to our super new look, and a new loyalty platform that to rewarding our guests,” Green says. “After all, in the end, they are the ones who matter!”
Founded in Charlotte, N.C. in 2000, Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina (now known as Salsarita’s Fresh Mexican Grill) offers Mexican favorites such as six flavorful house-made salsas, custom burritos, tacos, nachos and salads made fresh to order with an extensive selection of proteins, toppings and fillings. Salsarita's was acquired by franchise industry veteran Phil Friedman in 2011 and operates more than 80 locations in 17 states, including 13 that are company-owned.