Fast-casual chain Just Salad is a New York City-based brand that had to adapt quickly as NYC shut down for months. Part of that adapting included introducing grocery items to their menu. Nick Kenner, founder and CEO of Just Salad, explains how he worked to keep his team happy and healthy while giving customers a reason to continue supporting the brand. Here’s his story:
“Where to start? I have three kids ages 6 and under, one of them at risk, so it has been a real challenge to make sure that they are all safe and happy, and continue to be educated. I spend a majority of my time working from home, but I am still able to visit our stores frequently, which helps keep me sane and grounded to our employees and guests. Working from home has allowed me to have breakfast, dinner, nighttime Uno games and other moments as a family that I could only dream of, and I am extremely grateful and a happier person overall to be able to have that time.
The first measures we took [as a business] were to keep our customers and employees safe. We created a D1 committee tasked with looking at everything Just Salad was doing operationally as though we were re-opening our restaurants in a new world. We implemented over 20 procedural changes, created new positions and eliminated in-store dining for the foreseeable future.
The next focus was on our community. We wanted to truly help, not just say we were helping, so we pushed ourselves to go all in and donate over $1 million worth of food to over 20 hospitals. That made a real difference to our healthcare heroes and truly united and galvanized our own team. In addition, we partnered with a fine-dining restaurant called the Little Owl to support unemployed restaurant employees in the NYC fine-dining community.
We also launched Just Grocery, a new brand and platform that aims to let our customers cook healthy and fast. The early success of it has encouraged us to do more with this platform. Just Salad also completely re-imagined catering and released a new menu, and countless other initiatives as the team has been firing on all cylinders.
I consider Just Salad lucky in that before the pandemic we already had a best-in-class web-ordering system and proprietary app that we have been able to leverage throughout this time for pickup and delivery, so instead of playing catch-up we could focus on some of the other things mentioned.
For quick service and fast casual, the future is here, and it’s digital pickup and delivery or drive-thru, depending on geography. As a restaurant, our digital experience has to be elevated and unique. How brands execute operationally on pickup and delivery will be a leading factor in success. ‘Brand’ will become even more important than it was pre-COVID.”
This is part of our Stories from the Front Lines series.