Technology

Salted raises $14M to expand Moonbowls, other delivery brands

The company plans to double its unit count by the end of next year and also has an acquisition up its sleeve.
Moonbowls, a veggie-based Korean bowl brand, is Salted's most popular concept. | Photo courtesy of Salted

Salted, the parent of Moonbowls, Califlower Pizza and other health-focused, delivery-first restaurant brands, has raised $14 million. 

The Los Angeles-based company plans to use the funding to open more locations, hire staff, develop technology and acquire more brands. It already has a deal to buy a Mediterranean concept and is on the lookout for others that fit its unique model, said CEO Jeff Appelbaum.

Founded in 2014, Salted today has 25 locations, each of which house up to eight brands. Most of its outlets are in ghost kitchen facilities, and its average store footprint is just 220 square feet. More than 90% of its sales come from delivery.

However, it doesn’t think of itself as a virtual brand company along the lines of MrBeast Burger and the like, Appelbaum said. Salted operates all of its locations itself and has focused on growing revenue rather than unit count. Each Salted outlet generates $1 million a year on average, and all of its locations are profitable, Appelbaum said.

Salted’s emphasis on fundamentals appealed to investors, who have become stingier coming out of the pandemic. 

“It really comes down to this notion of owning and operating your brands and creating healthy revenue, meaning revenue from repeat, loyal customers,” Appelbaum said. “And the only way you can do that is if you’re delivering a really high-quality, consistent customer experience.”

That can be challenging for a restaurant that doesn’t get to interact face-to-face with its customers, Appelbaum said. But it has built custom technology to help. For instance, it captures photos of every item being prepared in its kitchens, reviews them and sends results back within 30 minutes. The process is designed to help flag mistakes and identify where more training is needed. 

That way, “we can feel good that the sweet potatoes at our kitchen in Atlanta are identical to the ones in Portland,” Appelbaum said. 

It also relies on guest feedback to help with quality control. It sends customers a text message after their order is complete asking how it went. It then combines those results with reviews on delivery platforms and other sources to calculate an overall positivity score. Last week, Salted’s positivity score was 86%, Appelbaum said.

Appelbaum described the company as a “modern Yum Brands,” with concepts built to become household names. But unlike KFC and Taco Bell, Salted is firmly in the better-for-you category, with menus that are vegetable-heavy and free of preservatives, sugars and gluten.

Moonbowls, a Korean healthy bowls concept, is its “crown jewel.” It also has Lulubowls, a Hawaiian concept; Ginger Bowls, which specializes in Chinese cuisine; $5 Salad Company; Califlower Pizza; and the keto-friendly Thrive Kitchen. 

Salted is getting better at learning which brands resonate with customers, Appelbaum said. It’s now operating fewer brands out of each location—three to four, on average—but is looking to add more that it knows will work. 

That includes the new Mediterranean concept, the identity of which is still under wraps. Salted has tested it in six locations and it has performed “really well,” Appelbaum said.

With a proven business model and a fresh round of financing, Salted now hopes to bring its brands to more locations. It expects to double its footprint, to 50, by the end of next year. And it wants to open more brick-and-mortar stores as well. 

The Series B funding round was led by Creadev, with participation from Proof Ventures and B Riley Financial.

“Salted has proven a much more efficient, sustainable and responsible model for scaling a national restaurant platform,” said Alexia Lingart, investment manager at Creadev, in a statement. “We believe their deep focus on quality, data, and technology will enable them to capitalize on the shifting consumer behavior in their industry.”

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