Salad and Go, a two-and-a-half-year-old homegrown concept that has three busy locations in Gilbert, is about to go Valleywide.
Over the next year, the drive-through salad bar is opening three locations in Mesa, two in Cave Creek, two in west Phoenix, and one in Tolleson.
If that doesn’t include your city, just wait. Salad and Go founder Roushan Cristofellis is looking for additional sites, including in Chandler and Tempe.
A Gilbert resident and former elementary school teacher, Cristofellis (pictured above) was frustrated by the lack of healthy and tasty fast food in her neighborhood.
Although she and her husband had no experience running a restaurant, they launched the first Salad and Go on the southeast corner of Gilbert and Guadalupe in February 2013.
The menu was simple: 10 made-to-order gourmet salads created by Daniel Patino, executive chef at Bourbon Steak at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess resort.
“When we first opened, our average ticket time was seven minutes,” Christofellis says. “That’s horrible. You can’t be a replacement for fast food at seven minutes.
“Now we’re about a minute-and-a-half, maybe 2 minutes.”
After a few months, the eatery added a breakfast menu with healthy items like egg-white burritos, quinoa bowls, and power wraps.
Salad and Go’s second location opened at Cooper and Warner in March 2014, and a third followed at Higley and Williams Field in September.
“We built this concept with the idea that this isn’t the type of place you do just one of,” Christofellis says. “We’re trying to change fast food, so the idea is we need more to fulfill our mission.”
Two new salads debut on menu
Earlier this month, Salad and Go’s menu got its first facelift, based on two-plus years of customer feedback. Gone are the Spinach and Smoked Bacon and Louie salads.
Taking their place: Sweet Potato and Strawberry (pictured) and Southwest Kale Caesar salads.
In the beginning, all 10 salads were made with romaine lettuce. Now, eight of them feature mixed greens as well as romaine.
“What we found was a lot of our customers didn’t like the romaine hearts,” Christofellis says. “They wanted something with different flavors and different textures.”
Salad and Go uses organic and fresh ingredients whenever possible.
For example, the pineapple chunks on the Asian salad are from freshly chopped whole pineapples. The peanuts are roasted on-site. The chicken is free-range. All oils are GMO-free.
“Our goal is to constantly get better,” Christofellis says. “A lot of our greens are organic, but not all. One week our bananas are organic, the next week not.
“We’re still too small to have the necessary buying power. Not like Chipotle.”
All 10 salads come in 48-ounce plastic to-go containers. All are the same price: $5.74. (All also are available as wraps instead of salads.)
The Cobb remains the chain’s best-seller by a wide margin. Second place, though, is an ongoing battle between the BBQ Ranch, Greek, and Caesar.
Where Salad and Go is opening next
Given their unique needs – drive-throughs and walk-up windows, but no dining rooms – Salad and Go builds each of its locations from the ground up.
All the new locations will feature an updated facade with a more modern look and the concept’s green, orange, and charcoal color scheme.
The two Cave Creek locations have not officially been announced yet, but here are the others (in order of their anticipated openings):
- Higley and Brown in Mesa
- Power and Broadway in Mesa
- 99th Avenue and Lower Buckeye in Tolleson
- Pinnacle Peak and 19th Avenue in Phoenix
- Alma School and Southern in Mesa
- Baseline and 19th Avenue in Phoenix
“We do really want to get into Chandler and Tempe,” says Christofellis, who grew up in Chandler. “We’ve got this hole now in the middle (of the map).”
Beyond the Valley, she and her husband are looking at Tucson, Flagstaff, Prescott, and Payson.
“Our goal is to have 40 stores in Arizona,” she says.
The couple own each location and have no plans to sell franchises.
“I think it’s risky when you franchise and you lose that control,” Christofellis says.
Making ‘drive-though food better’
When she opened the first store, Christofellis expected the vast majority of Salad and Go’s customers to be female. She’s been surprised.
“I think our biggest following on Facebook is female, and they tend to be the most vocal,” she says. “But as far as guests, it’s pretty mixed.”
(As Christofellis says this, a pickup full of male Hispanic landscape workers pulls up to the drive-through.)
“If you had the numbers, you might see there’s a few more percentage points of females, but I think we thought it would be more overwhelming than it is.”
A number of fast-casual salad concepts have entered the Arizona market in the last few years, such as Denver-based MAD Greens at Tempe Marketplace.
Christofellis, however, points out none of them have drive-throughs.
“We don’t consider anyone a competitor who doesn’t have a drive-through,” she says. “Our mission is to make drive-through food better.
“We think a big part of the reason people choose fast food is it’s convenient – you don’t have to get out of your car.”
As the mother of a 15-month-old daughter (born between the openings of the second and third stores), Christofellis is speaking from experience.
“I now appreciate the convenience as much as anyone.”
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