- Saladworks is partnering with Kitchen United to test virtual kitchens in Chicago, Scottsdale, Arizona, and Austin, Texas, according to Fast Casual. The Chicago and Scottsdale locations are already operating, with Austin soon to follow. Customers will be able to order via the salad chain's app for delivery or pickup at a Kitchen United location.
- Kelly Roddy, Saladworks CEO, told the publication the brand is looking for aggressive growth strategies and that virtual kitchens allow it to enter new markets without the overhead and complexities of opening brick-and-mortar store locations.
- The brand is also using the partnership to determine whether it should expand its menu to include healthier options of late-night foods like pizza and wings.
Saladworks' virtual kitchen experiment comes down to the numbers, with Roddy saying that each location needs to bring in $2,000 per day in order for the program to be viewed as a success, according to Fast Casual. If a location falls short of meeting that goal, however, he's still pleased with the opportunity to build brand recognition in a new market. If the pilot is a success, the brand may add 50 to 100 virtual kitchens to its network, a big step towards its overall goal of doubling its footprint to 200 locations by the end of 2020. Other chains that have been testing shared kitchens include Chick-fil-A, Wetzel's Pretzels and Halal Guys.
The three test markets were selected for specific reasons. The densely-populated Chicago market enables the brand to see how it fairs among urban dwellers and against numerous other restaurant chains, while Scottsdale will gauge interest among a suburban population. Austin is intended to test a younger demographic's interest in ordering salads to-go from the chain in a hybrid setting. For Austin, the brand is anticipating more late-night orders due to the younger crowd.
Roddy, former Schlotzky's president, took the helm of Saladworks in August 2019, stating that the chain is ahead of other brands and that its advantage lies in the customizable menu geared towards health-conscious consumers. It opened 20 new store locations in 2019, marking a 20% boost ins tore count, which included partnering with ShopRite to add Saladworks locations in its supermarkets.
Some of these locations opened in markets outside its home turf like Atlanta; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Denver; and Charlotte, North Carolina. Roddy initially expressed an interest at staking out further territory in its existing markets, which make the virtual kitchens a good fit. It reached 100 locations with the opening of a Howard Park, Maryland, store in January, according to a press release sent to Restaurant Dive last month. With a goal of doubling its store count by the end of the year, it's clear that it will rely heavily on delivery in order to get there.