The “fly-over” states don’t always get a lot of attention when it comes to healthy food; the reputation is more around meat and potatoes or fried foods, not salads.
But Crisp & Green is out to change that.
The chain, with 26 units and over 200 units in the works, based out of Minnesota believes people outside of the coasts want to eat healthy and is on a mission to prove it. Opening a new restaurant approximately every five days, according to CEO Steele Smiley, the chain is one of the fastest growing chains in the market.
The goal? “We'll be the first healthy restaurant to reach 1,000 stores,” said Smiley, noting that he aims to get there by 2025.
The chain is well on its way. But what makes it so special?
AUVs are in the mid-$2 million range, said Smiley, who ran a successful fitness empire before diving into the restaurant world.
Smiley thinks it’s the lack of opportunity for the people in the Midwest, not a lack of desire, that keeps them from eating more healthfully.
“We ultimately believe that whether you're in a big community or a small community, you should have the option to eat healthy, and so we've built our business off of that thesis,” he said.
Through fitness and wellness events, Smiley and his team are able to get communities involved in the brand without much other marketing when entering a new market.
But they also had the added bonus of the changing tides of consumer behaviors post-pandemic.
“[Crisp & Green] is for people that are looking to build a healthy choice in their life,” Smiley said. “Fortunately, post-pandemic, this was pretty much all of America, which was a unique twist in our country.”
With consumers increasingly choosing healthier brands during and post pandemic, brands like Crisp & Green had the chance to expand rapidly because of the demand. That’s especially true in Middle America, where the market isn’t saturated as it is on the coasts with concepts like Sweetgreen, Chopt, Freshii and Just Salad.
While the pandemic was a terrible time for some, it was a time of growth for Smiley’s Crisp & Green.
“Our store volumes almost doubled [during the pandemic]. We grew by huge amounts during that time,” he said.
That includes takeout and delivery volumes going from 7% to 70% — and staying there.
With the exponential growth of opening a store every five days, Crisp & Green is looking at all spaces to grow into. Smiley said they’re using both first- and second-generation locations to grow, but no matter where they go, they’re stripping it down to the bare bones to get the look they want.