Just Salad said Tuesday it has completed the largest capital raise in the company’s 15-year history including an investment from Closed Loop Partners and returning investor Panda Restaurant Group.
The amount of the investment was not disclosed. But for Closed Loop Partners, it marks the first investment in a restaurant. The New York-based investment firm is known for its support of businesses that are working to bring to scale “closed-loop” or zero-waste systems.
Just Salad has been a leader in developing a reusable bowl program that fosters loyalty and reduces reliance on single-use plastic packaging. The 47-unit chain is also one of the first to show the carbon impact of dishes on its menu to encourage sustainable eating on the go.
“Just Salad wants to continue to be the leader in sustainability in the restaurant space and Closed Loop Partners is a really great partner to hold us accountable to that on the inside. And we want that,” said Nick Kenner, CEO of Just Salad.
The partnership with Just Salad builds on and complements Closed Loop Partners’ existing work to advance sustainable food packaging, including investments in businesses that focus on alternative materials and reuse systems, according to the company. The investment firm was behind the NextGen Cup Challenge, which was designed to foster packaging solutions.
“We are impressed with Just Salad’s innovative approach to embedding zero-waste principles across their business. They are a pioneer of reuse models at scale, creating the world’s largest restaurant reusable program and illustrating their commitment to extending the life of valuable packaging materials,” said Ron Gonen, founder and CEO of Closed Loop Partners, in a statement. “Their continued growth demonstrates the viability, feasibility and desirability of circular business models.”
Panda Restaurant Group, parent of Panda Express, has been an investor in Just Salad since 2014.
“It has been rewarding to be part of Just Salad’s journey since the start of our partnership in 2014. Their growth in urban and suburban markets is impressive and is the result of great operations and focus on people development,” said Andrew Cherng, co-founder and co-CEO of Panda Restaurant Group, in a statement. “We are looking forward to supporting this next phase of Just Salad’s expansion and the impact they will make through their upcoming initiatives.”
Specifically, the investment will go towards increasing the geographic footprint of Just Salad, investing in technology and continuing the investment in sustainability, the company said.
The New York City-based chain plans to double its size with the investment and expand to new markets, said Kenner. Currently Just Salad operates in New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida and Dubai.
“We think over the next 10 years you won’t be able to go to a region where you see the traditional fast-food players and not see … Just Salad,” he said.
The brand is looking to expand its reusable delivery bowl program — called Bring Back the Bowl — through which customers can return their reusable container to be washed in Just Salad locations. Kenner said that Closed Loop Partners will be key in expanding this program digitally across all 47 locations.