March 31, 2014
Salad bars—our equipment focus this issue—are highly fabricated; there’s really no one-size-fits-all example of the “perfect” model. But there are good design practices in bringing together refrigeration, drop-in equipment, serving pieces, lighting, food shields and more. A salad bar certainly can be well thought out.
And who better to share do’s and don’ts of smart salad-bar design than the folks who design them well? The five pros who share their advice in “Designing Salad Bars” have many similar viewpoints. Everyone agrees that the bar needs to stay flexible to accommodate new ingredients. Most agree that including some hot items on the bar enhances the offering. Lighting is essential, and the difference between good lighting and mediocre lighting is not always understood. Refrigeration needs to vent and be accessible, and food shields have to comply with NSF/ANSI Standard 2—even though the requirements sometimes make it hard for customers to reach the ingredients!
We think the timing is right for a salad-bar focus. A quick online search for salad-centric restaurant chains yielded a surprising number: Snappy Salads, Saladworks, Chop’t, Chop Stop, Chop It Salad Co., Fresh & Co., Just Salad, Simply Salad, Choppers Custom Salads, Hale and Hearty, Nature’s Table, Salad Creations, Salata, Greenz, Sweetgreen—the list goes on. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen a noncommercial retail space without a salad station.
Based on the concept names, it’s clear that chopped salads—where all of the ingredients you choose go under a mezzaluna—really seem to be coming on strong.
And while Technomic says salad (which it pairs with soup) is still too small a category to be considered a foodservice segment in its own right, the Chicago research firm does track salad-consumer trends. Among them:
• More than two-fifths of consumers strongly agree that they visit certain restaurants specifically because they enjoy their salad offerings.
• 60% of consumers polled say it’s important that a salad can be bundled with other items.
• 53% of consumers want to be able to create their own salads from bar selections vs. ordering a set salad off the menu, and 57% would like more restaurants to offer salad bars.
We hope our salad-bar feature gives you plenty of food for thought.