Chris Dahlender says he has always been committed to creating a better world for his guests, his workers and himself.
The owner-operator of Snappy Salads, a two-unit, planet-friendly, fast-casual concept based in Dallas, says that his history as an Eagle Scout first cemented that philosophy, and even as an executive at Brinker International he knew someday he would launch a socially responsible business. Today Snappy Salads offers freshly prepared salads, sandwiches and soups that Dahlender says are not only good nutritionally, but made with respect for the planet, too.
Why did you start Snappy Salads?
I had been working for Brinker International, traveling around a lot, and had trouble finding anything really healthy to eat in airports. I guess it stems from that, really. I thought, “This is silly.” So Snappy Salads is an outpouring of who I am, and the healthy legs the concept stands upon are that it’s healthy for the guests. We try to keep as much excess butter, cream and salt out as we can. We also try to make it as healthy [an atmosphere] for our team members as possible, and we are committed to always trying to take care of the environment. We want to leave it better than the way we found it.
You’ve said you cannot call yourself a tree hugger.
I wouldn’t by any means, but I’m definitely conscious about what we’re doing to the environment. Every day I try and balance the cost of an environmentally friendly program with the business aspect of that particular decision.
Is it difficult to reconcile social responsibility with meeting the bottom line?
We started out [with the idea of being an] environmentally conscious restaurant concept, but we’re not [100-percent eco-friendly] because we are at the mercy of certain factors just as every business is. But it is a part of our DNA. I couldn’t say being environmentally friendly is worth [a specific dollar amount], but I can tell you that it’s one more reason people consider me a member of good standing in the community. Ultimately, that’s what’s important. It gives you a positive feeling toward the business, whether it’s a restaurant or a paper company or a retail outlet.