Kelly Roddy joined fast-casual chain Saladworks in August 2019 after 12 years of leading Schlotzsky’s, a sandwich fast-casual. He’s now positioning Saladworks to take full advantage of its niche as an established good-for-you brand despite so many others joining the party. The chain has established an ambitious goal — to double the number of Saladworks units by taking advantage of some underused nontraditional markets.
Q: What have been the biggest differences you’ve encountered between Schlotzsky’s and Saladworks?
A: Saladworks is very much a different model. Here, you go down the line, like at a Chipotle, and create your own meal. [Schlotzsky’s] was more of a restaurant environment where you order ahead of time, your meal is made in the kitchen, and is sent to the drive-thru or is delivered to the guest in the dining room. At Saladworks, we hand you your food immediately. The other difference is, people come here because they are looking for healthy options. Now, you can choose to eat unhealthy — you can find ways to make a salad unhealthy — but we’re very much a good-for-you brand.
Q: Saladworks as a concept is 30 years old; it has 100 units. You want to double that number by the end of 2020, so virtually overnight. Why so ambitious?
A: It’s a brand that is on trend. There is a lot of demand for it. We have brought in a high-level management team, all of whom have run something much bigger than Saladworks from an operational or marketing standpoint. So, the people in this organization are already thinking big. We have a low base, so doubling is not outside the realm of possibility. People think that a large brand adding 100 units is easy, while a small brand doubling in size seems challenging. But you’re still just adding 100 units. So, we take the mentality of pretending that we’re already big and we want to grow 100 units.
Q: What is your growth strategy?
A: We’re thinking nontraditional. Now, when people say nontraditional, they think malls or airports or universities. And we’re certainly going to be in those spaces as well, but we also will take it to other places: definitely third party, ghost kitchens, food trucks, going inside of other retailers. We want to make the brand way more accessible. We are literally testing every one of those things I’ve mentioned and deploying new units over the next 90 days in places where the brand has never been.
Q: Ghost kitchens are perhaps the newest nontraditional space. How does the equipment in a ghost kitchen differ from your traditional brick-and-mortar stores?
A: We are using the same equipment we use in our street-side locations. But we had to consider the differences in the service model. In our street-side stores, we are building a salad for each customer walking down the line. The ghost kitchens will do a tremendous amount of catering, and so these kitchens are set up with that in mind. It is also a much tighter space, so we laid the equipment out slightly differently, trying to gain efficiencies. We really don’t need that much space for our salad products in a non-guest-facing situation, so I could look at changing some equipment in the future to be even more efficient.