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The program allowed Just Salad consumers to buy salads for $8.99 if they used a reusable bowl.

Just Salad finds success in discounting — for a purpose

The New York City-based salad chain’s latest program saw customers rushing to get its signature blue bowls for a fair price

While some restaurants may be shying away from discounting amid the economic environment, Just Salad is embracing it.

The New York City-based salad chain, which has managed to keep prices low versus its competitors despite some price increases, recently launched a discount program to increase the use of its signature blue reusable bowls.

It worked so well, the chain repeated it weeks later.

The program allowed consumers to buy salads for $8.99 if they used a reusable bowl. The bowls, which sell for $1, have been in use at the chain since it first started 17 years ago.

In fact, it was the only option when the brand first opened. Founder Nick Kenner told Nation’s Restaurant News that while he didn’t want to create waste, he also didn’t like that the garbage would be full of reusable bowls at the end of the day.

Seventeen years later, reusables are all the rage with brands like Starbucks even jumping in on the trend. However, Kenner doesn’t think this is just a trend, it’s “momentum.”

Reusables and the environment mean so much to Just Salad that the company worked to become B-Corp certified — something the brand was just named last month. The company even has a chief sustainability officer, Sandra Noonan.

“[Sustainability] is definitely intrinsic to who we are and how we think about everything we do,” Kenner said.

The latest promotion started out of internal conversations amongst leadership at Just Salad about how to increase reusable bowl usage. But also, prices for everything have gone up and the chain wanted to serve as a counter to that.

Consumers who use a reusable bowl have always been able to add a free topping to their salad — most choose avocado, according to Kenner. For the month of February, those consumers also paid just $8.99 for their salads. Salads at the chain normally retail for anywhere between $11.99 and $13.49, depending on the ingredients.

“I have this dream of selling all our products for $8.99 forever with reusable bowls,” Kenner said. “And I think that would get everyone to use it and get everyone to experience how great our product is.”

The result of the promotion was that returning customers with reusable bowls came “a bit” more, but “a ton” of new customers came for the first time and bought a reusable bowl. Many of those new customers have continued to use Just Salad after the promotion ended.

According to Kenner, the new customers obtained during the promotion “overwhelmingly” stayed with the brand.

“We’re not doing it for profit, but from a longer-term to medium-longer-term perspective, we’re doing it to increase our reusable bowl usage and get a lot more customers into the Just Salad ecosystem,” he said.

Kenner feels as though he just needs to get the product Just Salad is offering into people’s hands and they will discover the chain’s salads are “best in class” versus competitors.

“Our mission is, ‘well, we need to just get this product in people's hands,’” he said.

The bowls are so well-priced during the discounting that Just Salad begins to compete with quick-service players. Even the non-discounted bowls are cheaper than those at other competitors in the space.

“I feel like we compete as much against the traditional fast-food players as we do against the traditional fast-casual players,” Kenner said. “So, we do feel like we are creating a seat at the table for all customers in both fast-food and fast-casual”

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