Salad bars and customizable salad platforms have put this healthy, popular menu category in the customer’s hands, but don’t forget the power of the salad that’s designed by the chef.
Freshii certainly hasn’t. The Toronto-based healthy quick-service chain, with locations in more than 75 North American cities and 15 countries, may have customizable options in all of its menu categories, but Freshii’s chef-designed salads capture significant sales, welcome in guests who can’t decide on a DIY options and fulfill an important role in menu development.
According to Technomic’s 2014 Left Side of the Menu: Soup & Salad Consumer Trend Report, 43 percent of consumers say they visit certain restaurants specifically because they enjoy the salad.
Curated salads—the kind that have already been designed for the customer, rather than by the customer—ensure a balanced flavor experience and help take away the guesswork of which green goes with what vegetables and which dressing will pair well with which protein. The price and portion size of these items are also immediately known, which can be a draw for consumers—as anyone who’s inadvertently created a $17 salad at the salad bar can appreciate.
Walking past a salad bar or filling out the checklist menu for a DIY station can be overwhelming. “People love our customized options, but many guests, especially those who have never been to a Freshii, don’t know where to start,” says Andie Shapira, the company’s in-house nutritionist. “They really appreciate being able to order one of our chef-designed options.”
Such salads as the traditional Cobb (romaine and field greens, hard-boiled egg, avocado, bacon, blue cheese, tomatoes, corn and honey Dijon dressing) or the Mexico-inspired Fiesta (field greens, avocado, aged cheddar, corn, black beans, salsa fresca and cilantro-lime vinaigrette) boast a careful balance of flavors, textures and colors—the qualities that make a salad both satisfying and complex. They are curated from the same ingredients that available for custom options. And because Freshii has gone to the unusual step of employing a nutritionist, they are also nutritionally complete.
Shapira cites the superfoods-loaded Metaboost (spinach, kale and field greens topped with goat cheese, mango, almonds, carrots, edamame and balsamic vinaigrette) as one nutritionally sound option. “It’s fresh tasting, with delicious sweet fruit and crunchy almonds, and the tangy goat cheese, which also provides protein,” she explains. “People are becoming more aware of the value of superfoods, so that also appeals to them.” And the salad is part of Freshii’s Juice Cleanse, which features four different juices and the Metaboost salad every day.
The chef-designed menu options (in addition to the salads, there are also wraps, bowls and burritos) are the focus of much of the menu development that goes in the Freshii test kitchen, adds Shapira. “We are always evolving the menu to keep current with trends and seasonality and to make sure we are offering a wide variety of foods that appeal to all of our customers,” she says.
Additionally, these types of curated, nutritionally sound items appeal to the growing number of consumers who want to know what’s in their food and who seek out quality, fresh ingredients on restaurant menus.
For Freshii, initial planning takes place a year out and includes three to four quarterly LTOs in all categories; the process includes focus groups and tastings as well as a three-month test in the corporate store in Toronto. “This is where we really get creative, and the LTOs have really done well for us,” explains Shapira.
Some LTOs have become so successful that they are moved onto the permanent menu, such as the Pangoa Bowl, a flavorful combination of brown rice, avocado, aged cheddar, cherry tomatoes, black beans, corn, and cilantro, finished with a lime wedge and fiery bbq sauce. “The mission is to always keep the menu fresh, innovative and widely appealing,” she says.
This post is sponsored by Litehouse Foodservice