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Food

Salad days

With a change in ownership in 2010, Daphne’s Greek Café became Daphne’s California Greek, a fresh, healthy Mediterranean-Californian concept. “It was important to build on our Greek roots, but this gives us more opportunity to grow,” says Christy Geiling, senior director of marketing for the 56-unit, fast-casual chain. Launching new salads—a category with built-in equity—is a perfect fit.

Start with the protein

Daphne’s wanted to add another grilled protein to the menu mix, and shrimp was a natural. “It’s healthy, versatile and popular,” Geiling notes. They source frozen, pre-skewered shrimp for three current LTOs—Mango Shrimp Salad, Classic Grilled Shrimp Pita and a Shrimp Combo—and marinate them in-house in a zesty blend of garlic, paprika, herbs and spices, then cook them to order on char grills.  Operationally, it’s easy to grill the shrimp on skewers and, Geiling points out, kebabs are part of Daphne’s heritage.

Building the salad

“We’ve had a lot of success doing salads with fruit—pairing savory with sweet,” Geiling reports. To complement the grilled shrimp, R&D created a mango salsa, combining mango, chipotles, red bell pepper, red onion and a dash of lemon juice. The fresh mango is delivered peeled and pre-cut into large pieces; each location chops and mixes the fruit with the other ingredients on premise.

Also prepared in-house is the signature balsamic-hummus dressing, blended from the hummus Daphne’s uses in several menu applications along with balsamic vinegar and seasonings. The salad green mix and feta cheese are also cross-utilized. “We limit operational complexity by taking in as few extra skus as possible,” Geiling says.

Not a good match

During development, Daphne’s played with other condiments that didn’t work as well with the grilled shrimp. “We tried pesto, a creamy roasted red pepper sauce and a garlic based sauce,” Geiling recalls. “All of those fought with the shrimp or became secondary.”

Healthy sales

The Mango Shrimp Salad is exceeding expectations. Its seasonal ingredients, sweet-savory flavors and 400 calorie count add up to great customer appeal. Plus, the National Mango Board partnered with Daphne’s to promote the LTO.

“We’ll evaluate at the end of summer to see if the salad stays on the menu,” Geiling adds. If it does, Daphne’s will find ways to cross-utilize the mango salsa and perhaps partner with a vendor to produce it.

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