|Saladworks has 100 franchises on the East Coast and is expanding West and abroad.|
At least in New York City, these days almost every other deli has a toss-your-own salad counter, and a handful of companies such as Tossed and Just Salad that have multiple stores based on the concept of salad. "We have a huge following and people seem to connect with the brand and what we are trying to do. The business model is working, which is allowing us to expand organically," says Nick Kenner, Just Salad's founder and managing partner. While Saladworks' systemwide sales were $81 million last year, according to Technomic, the next largest made-to-order salad provider is Nature's Table Cafe at $35 million in 2011 sales.
|Just Salad, a competitor to Saladworks, has six locations in New York City.|
It is Scardapane's recent partnership with Vernon Hill, the founder and former CEO of Commerce Bank (bought by TD Bank ( TD) in 2008), that is helping the fast-growing company get over its growing pains. Hill owns a minority stake in the company. His title at Saladworks is "chairman of the executive committee." A little background on Hill: After an investigation of supposed insider-related party transactions, federal regulators forced him to resign in 2007 from Commerce after nearly 25 years at the helm. The probe included Commerce's use of Hill's wife architectural firm to design Commerce branches. Regulatory issues or not, Commerce was often lauded as one of the most successful U.S. banks in terms of branch building and deposit-taking. Under his leadership, the company expanded to roughly 500 branches. Hill was adamant the locations be called "stores," not branches, to reflect a retail atmosphere geared toward strong customer service, extended hours -- Commerce is one of the first banks to open on the weekends, even before large bank competitors -- and limited fees. Hill is also an entrepreneur in his own right. His troubles with U.S. bank regulators did not stop him from taking his retail-focused bank system abroad. In 2010, he co-founded Metro Bank, the first British High Street retail bank started in more than 100 years. Essentially replicating the Commerce way, the goal is to have 200 locations by 2020. The bank has nine locations in the U.K. and another 11 opening this year. Among other partnerships and positions, he and a partner own about 40 Burger King ( BKC) franchises. Hill is also chairman of Petplan Insurance(apparently in a mission to bring pet insurance to the masses). It was through Saladworks' banking relationship with Commerce that Scardapane and Hill began talking, and three years ago Hill was brought on essentially as an external mentor, Scardapane says. "Without a doubt he's probably the smartest businessman that I have ever met," Scardapane says of Hill. "Anytime I run into a challenge I can pick up the phone and call him." Scardapane's entrepreneurism and passion for his company was commendable, Hill says. "I like to invest in things where companies can create fans,
Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.