CONSHOHOCKEN, Pa. (MainStreet) -- Saladworks chairman and founder John Scardapane gets the same thing every time he orders from the quick-service franchise: a turkey club salad with blue cheese dressing and Russian dressing.
"Occasionally I get a sandwich, but most of the time I get a turkey club salad," the former chef says.
While he may not get the healthiest item on the menu -- by far -- he sure knows the value of the people who do.
Calling itself the original fresh tossed-salad concept, Saladworks has been serving up made-to-order salads since 1986. The company, based in Conshohocken, Pa., has about 100 franchised locations in a dozen states, mainly on the East Coast, another 25 locations expected to open by the end of this year and several dozen in development for 2013, Scardapane says.
While its signature offering is freshly made salads and dressings, Saladworks also offers soup, sandwiches and paninis. Saladworks has consistently been listed as one of QSR's 10 Best Franchise Deals. Last year Scardapane was even named CEO of the Year by SmartCEO.
"Twenty-six years ago when I founded the company nobody believed that a salad concept could work. It was my belief that the salad concept didn't work because it didn't exist and consumers were not offered that option," Scardapane said last week. "We're giving the consumer an option, and they are more aware of what they're putting in their bodies today than any time in the past."
"Our goal is to serve something that tastes great but is also great for your body nutritionally, so you feel good," he says.
The company is catering to the healthy lifestyle as customers become more concerned with that they're eating and as restaurants and fast-food chains are becoming required to list calorie intake for their menu items.
The combination of an established market presence, a growth plan only recently being kick-started and increasing demand for his product leaves Saladworks in a good position. It's seeing more young customers, a growth attributed to the education young people are increasingly being given about healthy eating, but older customers as well, Scardapane says.
"Our chain used to be 65% lunch and 35% dinner. Now it's 55% lunch and 45% dinner. It's actually being driven by the elderly consumer. The 55-and-older consumer is coming to our restaurant for dinner. I think it's just because the price point that we are at and the nutritional value" makes for a good combination, he says.
Last year was record-breaking, Saladworks says. Same-store sales rose 15% in the fourth quarter, while overall sales last year rose 7% compared with a year earlier, the company said in January.