FORT LAUDERDALE Fla. After scaling back from 12 units to eight last year, Tossed is looking to expand into non-traditional spaces, such as airports or mall kiosks. Plans are in the initial stages for corporate stores in Miami and New York City, and a franchisee in Los Angeles is working on a deal to open in Universal Studios in CityWalk. The chain also has redesigned its logo and developed a new prototype. Chief operating officer Eric Clark spoke recently with NRN about all the changes.
What were the deciding forces behind redesigning the store and the logo?
We knew 2009 was going to be a difficult year with the economy and lending procedures for small business. We made a commitment at the beginning of the year that we were going to reinvest back into our concept and our brand. We hadn’t done a rebranding in about five or six years, and we hadn’t done a logo in 12 years.
Tell me about the new prototype.
We have units anywhere from 2,500 all the way up to 4,000 square feet. What we really felt here as a team and as an organization was that we want more of the downtown urban growth potential. We really wanted that urban footprint, like 1,400 to 1,600 square feet. Click here to see renderings of the new prototype.
We went back to our roots. The first Tossed is only 998 square feet, built in 1998 on Park Avenue in New York. Very tight. Small unit running seamlessly as possible, [but] we knew that was too small.
Why was that too small?
It comes down to storage, back door accessibility and convenience for the guest. We can operate cooking food and doing a million dollars plus a year out of it. That was not a problem. It was more that the guest was a little bit too tight. When you walk through the door, it was a little tight, not much of a waiting are for the guest. Operationally speaking, the team executes well.
Storage is a little bit of a problem. In this economy, you are looking for less drops or deliveries for your vendors, to keep your pricing down. The more deliveries you get, the easier your storage is. If you are getting deliveries three times a week and stocking up for a weekend, it is not a lot of storage at 200 square feet.
What about the logo?
We wanted to get something a little cleaner, a sharper image, but staying similar to our old brand. You won’t see a big difference in it, but it just looks crisper and cleaner. The objective is to stay fresh and new.
How are you planning to fund the growth this year?
We are a pretty well-established company with our finances; we don’t have a lot of debt. We are financing our own stores by ourselves. Our regional developer, he actually has a good capital base himself, but I know that he did receive some lending.
That is a good sign for the lending environment right?
Great sign. It has been so tight. Around the middle of last year, they would want 50 percent in to get down the money, and our capital number has been reduced a lot. We are building from [$240,000] to $250,000. We use non-cook kitchens now. So you don’t need any hoods or roof penetration. We can do in-line very easily. A lot of things, we did ourselves. We were cooking down garlic and shallots for dressings. We have outside vendors using our recipes now. Our chicken is being done by one particular vendor and they are grilling it or blackening it, roasting it the ways that we want it and it comes in our formats.
What do you see in the near future for the salad segment?
The salad segment is very unique. The potential for growth is huge. It is not a saturated market; there are not a lot of salad concepts out there. Of them, I would say 50 percent are mediocre salad bar types. And there are only a few that are doing great concepts and great food. We have been doing it for a long time. I don’t look at it as competition. If they are doing well, that is even better for the segment. It is a healthy growing market. I think the salad market has a great opportunity to grow. And a lot of people are looking at it as an alternative, because they are looking into healthier lifestyles.