Continue to Site

    What Inspires Salata President Michelle Bythewood

  • The core of marketing is that connection in the community, she says.

    Salata
    Michelle Bythewood's first job was at a record store called Pickwick Music.

    I started at Schlotzsky’s almost 30 years ago as a field marketing manager. I hit the streets and developed marketing plans for all the individual corporate restaurants in Houston. I absolutely fell in love with the restaurant industry and marketing. If you have great-tasting, high-quality food in a great operating model, local restaurant marketing in the community is a secret weapon.

    I continued to grow with the brand and was with Schlotzsky’s for 22 years. I spent the last two years doing their full reimage and remodel program. I tell everyone that I traded my marketing hat for a hardhat and worked with construction crews. After Schlotzsky’s, I was in a marketing leadership role at Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers for almost three years and then went to Cicis Pizza as vice president of brand. That’s when I realized I wanted to do my own thing.

    In 2016 I started Field Marketing Focus to help brands market in their communities. Salata was one of my first clients, and they tried to get me to work for them full-time from the get-go. After a year and a half, I became its first CMO.

    Local area marketing has changed in many ways because of social media, but the core of marketing is really that connection in the community. You have to add in the element of social media, and you have to be able to understand how to speak with your target audience. It’s a sustainability cycle: If you give to the community, they’re going to give back to you, so you just have to figure out exactly the right way to do it.

    I really love working with franchisees. The key is working hand in hand and just maintaining open lines of communication. We don’t see eye to eye all the time, but if you earn their respect, you can have a really high-functioning brand.

    Even though I’ve always been in marketing, my career has been very connected to operations. You can’t be a successful marketer unless you understand how the company functions. Being president has allowed me to get even more involved. I’m really enjoying it so far because I’m able to look at every single facet of the company.


    What was your first job?

    My very first job was at a record store called Pickwick Music. It was the perfect teenage job, except that I spent half my paycheck buying the latest album. I still have Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” white vinyl.

    What’s your favorite menu item at Salata?

    Everything is fully customizable, so I try to have a different salad combination every day. But I always pick the same dressing, the Fresh Herb Vinaigrette.

    What is your favorite type of cuisine, excluding salads?

    I love a great steak. My favorite is a bison fillet cooked medium rare by my hubby.

    What’s the best piece of advice you think restaurant leaders should hear?

    You really have to do extensive research to know who your customers are and how to speak with them. You can’t assume that you’ve got that figured out.

    What are some of your interests outside the business?

    I’m a big gardener. I love to have my hands in the dirt and plant flowers. My father actually built greenhouses and raised orchids as a hobby. Gardening and reading are probably my biggest passions.