The Power List
Kim Malek Salt & Straw

The Power List 2019: Kim Malek

Bringing small-batch ice cream to a big stage

The annual NRN Power List is the definitive list of people setting foodservice trends today and shaping them for tomorrow. See the full list >>

Kim Malek, co-founder, Salt & Straw

Since Kim Malek co-founded Salt & Straw in 2011, the Portland, Ore.-based artisanal ice cream has experienced impressive unit growth, earning it Nation’s Restaurant News’ recognition as a Breakout Brand in 2017. Equipped with an investment from Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group that same year, Salt & Straw has since grown to 17 scoop shops, plus Wiz Bang Bar, a soft-serve ice cream store in its home city.

The ice cream brand has gained a cult following for its ever-changing, seasonal flavors that are tailored by location. No shop has an identical menu to others. But beyond its popular scoops and hand-packed pints that are shipped nationwide, another factor behind Salt & Straw’s success is its progressive workplace benefits. Community is at the core of Malek’s business approach. All Salt & Straw employees — including part-time workers — receive paid leave, health insurance and leadership training. This model has resulted in a turnover rate of 12 percent for in-store employees, remarkably low by industry standards.

The biggest location thus far is the recently opened Disneyland shop in Anaheim, Calif. The heavy foot traffic in the theme park compelled Malek to alter the design and operations, introducing new initiatives such as a “concierge” to answer questions and offer samples to people waiting in line. The Disney location served as an unintentional beta test for future stores, according to the co-founder.

A second San Diego unit is planned for 2019.

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