Snappy Salads, a Dallas-based concept that was founded in 2006, recently opened its fourth restaurant in Richardson, Texas.
Founder Chris Dahlander’s latest unit emphasizes sustainability, as do the other locations. The restaurants, except for one mall location, are distinctive for their communal tables made from recycled wood.
A fifth unit is also planned for suburban Southlake, Texas. Dahlander says Snappy Salads’ expansion is deliberate. “In terms of growth,” he said, “slow and steady wins the race — if there even is a race.”
After a tour of the new Richardson restaurant, Dahlander answered questions from Nation’s Restaurant News via email.
What does this fourth unit signal in the evolution of Snappy Salads?
It is a culmination of all the things I have learned from the other locations — some intentional and some forced. The open kitchen is probably the biggest change from the first store. I am very proud of the fact that we grill our all-natural chicken and antibiotic- and hormone-free steak in front of our guests, make our soup each day in a big pot from scratch, and sauté line-caught Sockeye salmon and such to order. The guest is blown away when they see all of this going on in front of them. They don't expect all of this cooking from a "salad" restaurant.
How big is the restaurant and how does it compare with earlier incarnations?
This is the largest footprint to date, although our Southlake location will be slightly bigger. Instead of expanding the kitchen, we've simply added more seats in the dining room to accommodate our guests. Even with our long gathering tables, it can get really tight during certain times of the day.
Where have you beefed up the focus on sustainability?
I am proud of the fact that this concept was built on a foundation of environmental awareness and sustainability. It is part of our culture and we will continue to do our best and to encourage others to limit the impact we are making on the environment. More than just biodegradable takeout containers and utensils, we recycle CFLs [compact fluorescent lamps] and batteries for guests at no charge, our countertops are made locally with recycled beer and wine bottles and porcelain, the tables were salvaged from a beer distribution warehouse built in Fort Worth in the 1920s, and our dining area is lit using less than 300 watts of energy.
And for the menu?
We've brought in more organic and humanely raised food products, pressured our landlords to set up recycling programs and encourage our guests to take their salads away in our reusable bags. It is an all-out effort that encompasses every aspect of the organization.
Standing out in a growing segment
The salad segment is expanding. How does Snappy Salads’ positioning give it strength?
It's exciting to see other concepts doing well. I'm a firm believer that we are eating too much of the wrong foods because there haven't been any options out there. Everything in moderation, but let's be honest, obesity is a real problem, and that's why we are going to be the beneficiaries of people that have reached their tipping point.
You also plan to add beer and wine for the first time at the Richardson unit.
We will begin selling beer and wine at the Richardson location as soon as the paperwork gets through a lengthy approval process. We're going to keep the selection to two beers and two wines that have stories that complement our reason for existing.
And how will those be served?
We will be serving our beer and wine in recycled wine and beer glasses. Wine bottles for beer glasses and beer bottles for wine glasses.
What is the check average?
Our guests are not afraid to spend money on our salads because they know that we are trading them for a high-quality salad served in a friendly environment with friendly and helpful team members. A Half Snap (half-sized salad) with a protein and a drink comes out to $12.
What percentage of customers choose menu salads versus creating their own?
Each location has a different mix and is more a function of how long they've been around then anything else. I will say that, anecdotally, women are more likely to create their own salad than men on their first visit.