The Big Salad, a chain of restaurants in metro Detroit serving fresh, custom-made salads, healthy and hearty soups and a wide range of sumptuous sandwiches today announced plans to open two new franchises in 2013 with a goal to launch an additional 200 restaurants over the next 10 years.
The Big Salad’s biggest drawing card and exclusivity by far is their entrée salads, which are featured as a main course instead of a side dish. With three types of lettuce (iceberg, spinach and romaine), 30 vegetable toppings, 30 dressings, eight meat and seafood toppings, and eight dry toppings, there are over 17 million possible custom combinations salad chefs are able to construct for customers.
“I wanted to create a specialty restaurant, where salads are the main course of a meal that is made for our guests, not by them, and to their exact specifications,” said John Bornoty, The Big Salad Founder, of the idea that is the foundation for his chain of restaurants. “The Big Salad is a restaurant where the number of fresh toppings seems limitless, the lettuce is continuously kept crisp and cold and the salad ingredients are not handled by the masses, but by one associate who is dedicated to making customers the best and freshest salad possible.”
Bornoty opened the first The Big Salad in 2008 in Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan, an upscale suburb of Detroit. It became an instant oasis for diners seeking fresh food at reasonable prices in an upscale environment. Bornoty accomplished his upscale image by trimming his restaurants with granite counters, wood accents and comfortable cushioned wood chairs.
“The trend in the restaurant industry is clearly toward offering fresher, reasonably-priced, more healthful choices in an upscale environment,” explains Bornoty. “In this regard, The Big Salad is perfectly positioned.”
Booming Sales, Franchise Expansion
Having proven the concept with the original Grosse Pointe restaurant, Bornoty has since opened two franchises, in Troy and Royal Oak, Michigan and later this month he will launch a 2nd company-owned location in Novi, Michigan, which will also serve as the corporate training center for franchisees and a test bed for new menu items. The new restaurant will also be the largest in the chain with its most spacious dining area that will include a conference table section to accommodate business meetings.
Sales have been booming at The Big Salad ever since the first restaurant opened four years ago. The chain’s 750,000th item is expected to be sold and 500,000th customer served by the end of the year. With the help of two more franchises which will open in the spring of 2013 in Ann Arbor and Rochester, Michigan, the one-millionth item is expected to be served next year. The possibilities are endless for achieving other sales milestones. Over the next 10 years, Bornoty envisions significant growth outside of Michigan with 200 mostly-franchised locations strategically deployed regionally across the country.
“After opening the Grosse Pointe restaurant, we began generating interest from potential franchisees,” recalled Bornoty. “At first, the interest was limited to about four leads a month, but now that we have successfully launched other locations, interest has dramatically increased which leads me to believe that around three-quarters of our growth will be in franchised locations.”
Menu Mainstays – Fresh Entrée Salads, Soups, and Sandwiches
In addition to custom-made salads, The Big Salad offers 12 signature made-to-order entrees, including “The Classics,” (Wedge, Greek and Caesar), The Signatures,” (Antipasto, Mariana and Alaskan King), “The Specialties,” (California, Club and Asian) and “The Gourmets,” (Maurice, Baja and Cobb).
The Big Salad menu also features seven sumptuous sandwiches, including Caprese, Chicken Caesar, and Cranberry Turkey. Garden Turkey, PB&J, Tuna Salad and Classic Italian all served with a choice of fresh-baked Italian baquette, ciabatta square or multi-grain bread. Customers can also opt to have their sandwiches wrapped in lavash or lettuce.
In addition, The Big Salad offers over 14 varieties of delicious soups of the day which are rotated alongside healthy daily favorites Chicken Noodle (90 calories) and Tomato Basil (190 calories). The wide range of soups of the day include everything from the diet-friendly 120-calorie Minestrone for weight conscious customers to the 400-calorie Wisconsin Cheddar for patrons who prefer a heartier cup or bowl. Other soups of the day include a number of chicken, seafood and vegetable variations.
Freshest Ingredients and Lowest Waste Levels a Top Priority
Serving fresh food and maintaining extremely low waste levels is a top priority for the environmentally-conscious restaurant chain.
Freshness is achieved through supplier contracts which mandate that vegetables are first cut and first picked from farms, and storing ingredients in color-coded, air-tight Cambro Inc. storage bins. Cambro’s industry-leading sealing system maximizes ingredient shelf life and the color coding system continuously informs employees of real-time freshness levels. The Big Salad’s use of the storage system has been so successful, Cambro is featuring the restaurant’s use of their products in an upcoming case study documentary.
Minimizing waste is maintained through a just-in-time inventory system that keeps ingredients flowing from loading dock to serving station on a regular basis. Waste is also minimized by delivering a significant portion of prep waste such as vegetable skins and ends to local schools for use as compost. These practices have resulted in The Big Salad maintaining 2% overall waste levels, far lower than the industry-average of 8%. Bortnoty’s goal is to achieve 0% waste by incorporating additional ways to re-purpose ingredients such as donating unused ingredients to local farms for livestock feed.
New York Inspiration
Bornoty’s inspiration for The Big Salad occurred a number of years ago while he was eating a sandwich in a Manhattan delicatessen. While dining, Bornoty noticed a small, yet busy salad bar in the corner of the room where customers, looking for a healthier alternative to a mile-high pastrami on rye, were building their own salads.
There were many drawbacks, however, as Bornoty saw it, at this salad bar and virtually every other one in the country. “The lettuce is not always fresh, the toppings are limited, and patrons all handle the same utensils, awkwardly reaching beneath a glass or clear plastic panel,” recalled Bornoty. “The ingredients also are typically not replenished until they’re empty, so the ingredients are usually warm and wilted.”
The Big Salad concept takes the work from customers on the go and places it into the able hands of salad chefs who create custom salads with fresh and plentiful levels of ingredients to be enjoyed in a relaxing setting. “Delicious, fresh food is only one element to an enjoyable dining experience,” said Bornoty. “Customers want to feel welcomed and relaxed. The staff at all of our restaurants regularly move around our dining areas, greeting customers and making make sure that they not only love our food, but that they are enjoying their experience.
“The Big Salad was born with an understanding that we have no interest in serving average food quickly, but rather by providing the freshest product possible, with great customer service, in an enjoyable, comfortable and impeccably clean atmosphere,” explains Bornoty.
About The Big Salad
The Big Salad, LLC, is a chain of three Metro Detroit restaurants specializing in custom salads, healthy soups and a wide range of sumptuous sandwiches. The first Big Salad location opened in Grosse Pointe, MI in 2008, followed by a 2nd restaurant in Troy, MI in 2010 and a 3rd location in Royal Oak, MI in 2011. In September 2012, a 4th restaurant will launch in Novi, MI followed by two more locations in Ann Arbor, MI and Rochester, MI in 2013. By spring 2013, the chain will consist of two company owned restaurants (Grosse Pointe and Novi) and 4 franchises (Troy, Royal Oak, Ann Arbor and Rochester) with plans to open 200 franchises in strategically located metro areas across the country within the next 10 years. For more information, please visit http://www.thebigsalad.net.