- Fast-casual chain Saladworks aims to open "hundreds" of locations inside grocery stores over the next few years, said Kelly Roddy, CEO of parent company WOWorks, in an interview.
- He said Saladworks plans to open between 25 and 30 full-service salad shops inside stores this year, and upwards of 100 next year. It's also ramping up its ghost kitchen locations, with 90 locations secured inside Walmart stores and a goal of getting to 400 across WOWorks' portfolio of restaurant brands.
- Saladworks, which has locations inside Kroger, Giant and ShopRite stores, is cashing in on the recent struggles of self-service salad bars and the demand for fresh, healthy fare.
Saladworks got a lot of calls from retailers last year that were forced to shutter their salad bars, Roddy said. Many of those bars are now able to reopen, often with safety restrictions in place, but grocers are still interested in piloting the full-service alternative because of its ability to drive traffic and freshen up stores. Roddy said grocers often place Saladworks close to the produce department.
Hitting its ambitious growth goals, however, means Saladworks will have to scale beyond the testing phase with retailers. That’s already happening with one grocer: The Giant Company. The grocer added its first Saladworks inside a store last fall and put another location inside its new Philadelphia flagship store, which opened earlier this year. Roddy said Saladworks will show up inside remodeled Giant stores and most new locations.
"We're becoming part of their new set whenever they remodel or build new stores," he said.
Grocers have long housed restaurants inside their stores, but instead of fast food chains these days they’re looking more to upstarts and inventive fare to keep pace with consumer demand, said Kevin Kelley, co-founder and principal with Shook Kelley. Salad operators also tap into shoppers’ desire to eat healthy and have a bit of indulgence if they choose, he said.
"They're not really eating the salad as much as they're eating the toppings," Kelley said.
Grocers and restaurants are also looking to meet high online demand for meals. Roddy said around a third of sales at Saladworks' in-store locations come through digital channels. The chain currently offers ordering via third-party services like DoorDash as well as its own app, but is working with grocers to integrate ordering into their online platforms, he noted.
Ghost kitchens, which have taken off in the restaurant space, are another way grocers are looking to meet online meal cravings. Walmart has made its intentions in this space clear as it announces integrations with numerous restaurant brands inside locations in the U.S. and Canada. Saladworks recently signed on with Ghost Kitchen brands at 90 locations, most of which will appear in Walmart stores. WOWorks hopes to incorporate its other restaurant brands, including Frutta Bowls and Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh, into Walmart's ghost kitchen rollout, and plans to work with additional ghost kitchen operators, Roddy said.
Saladworks and its parent company have been focused on rapid expansion ever since Roddy took the helm in 2019. Saladworks has opened more than 40 locations over the past year, while WOWorks has acquired multiple fast-casual brands, including The Simple Greek in March.