Salad Collective acquires Tokyo Joe’s to add third brand to portfolio

Darden Coors to replace founder Larry Leith as CEO.
Tokyo Joe's will continue to operate as a separate brand. /Photograph courtesy of Shutterstock.

The 27-unit Tokyo Joe’s chain has been acquired by Salad Collective, the parent of MAD Greens and Snappy Salads, the companies announced Monday.

Terms were not disclosed, but the 26-year-old Tokyo Joe’s, based in Denver, will become part of the Salad Collective portfolio, based in Golden, Colo., and continue to operate as a third brand within the group.

In what has been described as a collaborative transition, Darden Coors, CEO of Salad Collective, will become CEO of Tokyo Joe’s, replacing founder Larry Leith, who is planning to move on to new projects after assisting the merger. The company said the rest of the Tokyo Joe’s leadership team and support staff will remain with the brand.

“Aligning with the Salad Collective puts our brand in a strong place for our future — Tokyo Joe’s locations are incredible community gathering spots where we’ve created amazing relationships with our guests and employees. I’m 100% behind Salad Collective, the synergies between our teams, the values we share and the commitment to our people and our guests all run parallel,” said Leith in a statement. “Bringing these two companies together will make them each even stronger, leveraging best practices, resources and teams of great people.”

Leith was a pioneer of the fast-casual segment when he opened Tokyo Joe’s in 1996 with build-your-own rice- and noodles-based bowls, made-to-order sushi and salads. The chain includes 24 units in Colorado and three in Phoenix.

Though the markets for both MAD Greens and Tokyo Joe’s overlap, Coors said the move is designed to bring another health-centric brand  with “unique worldly flavors,” a quality menu and a popular loyalty program, into the collective’s mix.

“We’ve found a natural connection in terms of brand values, vibrant cultures, customer engagement, and commitment to delicious, approachable, better-for-you foods,” said Coors in a statement.  “This is a fantastic opportunity for us to join forces with a great team and set up all three Collective brands for a long-term success.”

The Coors family behind the namesake brewery created AC Restaurants Group in 2013 to acquire MAD Greens, which at the time had 11 units, with Darden Coors as CEO. Since then, MAD has more than doubled to 25 units.

In 2019, the company acquired the then-13-unit Snappy Salads. With that merger, the company was renamed the Salad Collective, which, with Tokyo Joe’s, will operate 65 company-owned restaurants out of the Golden headquarters.

With the announcement, however, Salad Collective also said it is preparing MAD Greens for selective franchising later this year, and is also evaluating non-traditional growth through licensing in airports, colleges and other high-volume venues.

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