Foodservice Salads: Crisp, Clean Profits

By Meline Beach

There’s something about summer that makes salads taste so much better. The crunch of a fresh cucumber, the juice of ripe tomatoes, and the bright colours of assorted sweet peppers on a bed of crisp lettuce, drizzled with a tangy dressing are mouth-watering. You don’t have to be vegan or vegetarian to enjoy a wonderful assortment of fresh vegetables showcased in a salad. While consumed year-round, summer is the season for fresh salads. And, fresh foodservice is one effective way in getting customers from the pump to the store.

Variety of Options

Many c-stores include salad as part of their foodservice offering. With and without protein options can appeal to a diverse customer base. And, served as a side or as a meal increase your order options. According to Technomic’s Soup & Salad Consumer 2018 Trend Report, sales of salad at c-stores remain steady, with caesar and garden salad as the most popular choices in the convenience channel.

Fresh salads are available at select Hasty Markets throughout Ontario. According to Nick Jabbour, vice president of operations and business development at Hasty Market Corporation.

“Store size and community needs are the main factors in determining which locations will carry salads,” says Jabbour. “A number of our large footprint locations are foodservice-based and do quite well with fresh foods, including salads. Stores that do not have the capacity to make food in-house will outsource.”

Classic Touch Foods, based out of Markham, Ontario, has been supplying the C&G channel with fresh grab and go foods for 10 years. The last five years included a salad offering as a healthy addition to its lineup of grab and go foods. Options include grilled chicken caesar, greek salad, chef salad, garden salad, mixed fruit salads, and mixed veggie cups. The most popular choice is their grilled chicken caesar salad.

“It’s a really satisfying and fulfilling healthy option with just the right amount of protein,” says Joseph Belcastro, assistant general manager at Classic Touch Foods. “While available year-round, the demand for salads change by the season.”

Alex Pittman, owner and general manager of Mikiz Pittstop in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia agrees that salad sales fluctuate and tend to be higher in the summer. He is also the owner of Alex’s Chill & Grill Restaurant, a full-service restaurant on the same property where, in 2017, he built a multifaced carwash business that features a Laser 360 Autowash, with specialty automotive cleaning and detailing services, a self-serve hand wash bay, and a K9000 doggy wash station. The restaurant is set in a classic 50s and 60s diner style and serves an assortment of grilled items and three types of salads: garden, caesar, and coleslaw. All salads are available as a side or meal with added protein as an option.

“Our customers love our salads,” says Pittman. “In terms of protein options, we offer beef, chicken, scallops and grilled or crispy haddock.”

Hasty Markets offers a variety of salads, some with a Mediterranean theme, such as tubule, chickpea and lentil, along with traditional options, including potato salad, pasta salad and green salad with different protein options.

“A large majority of our salad offerings are prepackaged for the grab and go market,” says Jabbour. “However, a small number of our store operators offer fresh made salads on location, which tend to accompany other fresh made food options, such as sandwiches or shawarma.”

Source of Ingredients

Quality food is top priority for all foodservice operators. Classic Touch Foods relies on Core-Mark as their distribution partner to ensure consistent and reliable delivery of fresh grab and go products to the C&G channel, whereas Pittman works with Armstrong Food Services for their largest selection of Nova Scotia made products.

“Where possible, we make salads in-house and source ingredients locally. Depending on the area, this includes buying directly from vendors at St. Lawrence Market,” says Jabbour. “Otherwise, we source prepackaged options from Core-Mark, Sobeys and sometimes Summer Fresh.”

Maintenance & Management

It’s a delicate effort to balance customer needs with produce and perishables without losing money.

“Salads are always a little tricky as they need more attention and care,” says Belcastro. “We offer a shelf life of four to five days to ensure that the salads are always looking fresh, and try to minimize waste as much as possible. The proper fridge temperature and placement is key to minimizing waste at the retail level.”

Depending on the type of salad, Hasty Market says their shelf life is anywhere from two to five days. Any waste goes directly to the green bin.

Pittman believes his foodservice offering is a complementary cross-sell to his carwash business and that offering seasonal favourites, like salads, is an opportunity to draw customers. To keep his food waste to a minimum, he makes salads fresh to order which takes approximately three minutes to prepare. Any excess is composted.

In terms of price point, many retailers sell salad items from $4.49 to $10 depending on if it’s a single item or a side dish as part of a combination platter.

For any c-store owners and operators interested in adding salad to their foodservice program, Jabbour offers the following advice: “A salad program can be implemented at a grassroots level with local ingredients. It is imperative to be selective with your fresh produce to maintain high standards. Make sure all your offerings are high quality and consistent. Customers have to know they can expect the same level of quality and freshness every time they step into your store.”

Classic Touch Foods adds to that advice with the following: “Not just salads, but all food, requires love, care, and attention. Make sure that the fresh food section is organized, clean, and presentable many times throughout the day. Salads need to be handled gently, so don’t just throw them anywhere. With the right placement, fridge temperature, and love and care, you can implement a successful salad offering to your fresh food program. Pre-packaged grab and go is becoming more prominent, and can greatly contribute to the success of C&G channels.”

Meline Beach is a Toronto-based communications practitioner and frequent contributor to Convenience & Carwash Canada. In addition to freelance writing, Meline provides communications and public relations support to businesses across Canada. She can be reached at www.mlbcomms.ca or email
info@mlbcomms.ca