- Saladworks has partnered with Ghost Kitchen Brands to open 60 nontraditional locations in the U.S. and 30 in Canada, nearly doubling its footprint by the end of 2021, according to a press release.
- Most of these new kitchens will be located inside Walmart stores, where there will be some seating available. All locations will offer carryout and delivery.
- Recently Saladworks has focused much of its expansion plans through grocery stores, opening locations in Kroger, ShopRite and The Giant Company in the last two years. In August, the company also partnered with Chowbotics to open in more nontraditional locations.
Saladworks' growth over the last several years comes, in part, as a result of several partnerships, including with Ghost Kitchen Brands, grocery chains, Reef Technology and ghost-kitchen franchise system Combo Kitchens. It is also testing its own virtual brand concept at Saladworks, Mark Mears, chief marketing officer of parent company WOWorks, said in an email.
"All are reliant on third-party delivery partners to help us leverage their size, scale and expertise to help Saladworks achieve its ambitious non-traditional restaurant growth plans in addition to our organic traditional restaurant grow[th] plans," Mears said.
Last year, Saladworks added 40 units, including ghost kitchens and several at nontraditional locations such as universities. An additional 90 units would bring Saladworks' store count to over 220 units. Ghost kitchens specifically have proven to be an "economical and highly successful expansion tactic for us," Eric Lavinder, chief development officer at WOWorks, said in the press release. Parent company WOWorks has also been expanding, acquiring Frutta Bowls and Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh in December and The Simple Greek earlier this month.
The current strategy at Saladworks also taps into a growing trend at grocery stores of adding more robust meal options for consumers. Walmart began testing ghost kitchens in Canada earlier this month with various brands, including Saladworks, Taco del Mar and The Cheesecake Factory Bakery, while Kroger opened a ghost kitchen in October as part of its partnership with ClusterTruck. In-store dining options have closed down, but grocery stores have seen increased foot traffic. Ghost kitchens can bring in multiple brands to create one-stop-shopping to attract even more guests to order pickup or delivery.
For restaurants, ghost kitchen models can increase the pace of growth because they don't require significant investments in real estate. Nathan's Famous opened its 100th ghost kitchen in February after a few months with this new model, for example. Wow Bao expects to reach 1,000 locations by the end of this year using a host kitchen model, in which brands partner with other restaurants to facilitate the delivery-only kitchens.