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Salata storefront Photos courtesy of Salata

Health-oriented Salata revs up unit growth

Houston salad concept plots expansion

Salata Holdings LLC in May opened a new Salata restaurant in Oklahoma City, the first of three new markets that it is entering this year.

The Houston-based health-oriented salad concept, which now has 65 restaurants open in California, Illinois, Oklahoma and Texas, plans to open as many as 23 more this year, said Berge Simonian (left), Salata CEO and president, in an interview Wednesday.

With new units planned by franchisees in Florida and Georgia, Salata is seeing fruits from its renewed franchising efforts, said Simonian. The company owns and operates 15 units, and 50 are franchised.

“At the end of 2013, we stopped franchising because we didn’t feel like we had the infrastructure in place to support our growth,” Simonian said. “Since then, we’ve beefed up our infrastructure and put the building blocks together to sustain the growth.” 

Salata reopened franchising in the second quarter of 2016, adding the development agreements for Oklahoma, Florida and Georgia.

The company in April opened its new 35,000-square-foot headquarters in Houston as it increased its rate of franchising.

The new corporate headquarters replaced Salata’s 3,500-square-foot corporate home since the first restaurant opened in Houston in 2005. The headquarters include offices, a test kitchen, training areas, production are for dressings, soups and sauces and a working restaurant that is open weekdays.

Salata’s most recent opening in Oklahoma City reflects the direction of the company, Simonian said. That restaurant covers 2,500 square feet, though Simonian said that restaurants range in size from 1,800 to 3,500 square feet. Urban stores are 750 to 1,500 square feet. The brand also looks for patio opportunities.

“We are constantly evolving,” Simonian said. “That is part of our culture here.” For example, Salata has gotten rid of iced tea containers and replaced them with taps, similar to those used for dispensing beer. Preparation of teas and lemonades is now done in the back. 

Salata got rid of menu boards and went with size pricing that features customizable salad and salad wraps made from a selection of more than 50 ingredients.

The brand has also set up an area for pickup for online orders. “We also looking for locations that are end-cap and have drive-up capabilities,” Simonian said. The company has already opened five locations with drive-thru pickup windows.

Stores with pickup windows have booked three times as many online orders than those without, he said.

Off-premise sales range from 10 percent of the total at suburban locations to 95 percent at downtown-based lunch-only outlets. The lunch-only model can have as few as 10 seats, Simonian said.

With the move to the new headquarters, Tony Kyoumjian (left), Salata’s vice president, said the company has been able to beef up its training programs for corporate staff as well as franchise managers.

“I’m very proud of our training program,” Kyoumjian said. “Our weakness was the training. To grow, we need to have the training.

Simonian said the opening this year will include at least two in the Atlanta are and two or more in the Fort Lauderdale-Miami market.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

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