The pioneers of the "fast-casual" restaurant world—including Shake Shack and Chipotle—still lack one staple ingredient of the classic fast-food dining experience: A drive-thru window. Enter Salad and Go, a restaurant chain based in Arizona that is selling healthy meals for less than $6 from a traditional drive-thru window. Fast Company has the scoop below!
"We kept saying over and over again, why can’t I just get something great tasting and good for you with the same convenience, speed, and price of traditional drive-thru fast food?" says Roushan Christofellis, who founded the chain in 2013. So, the former elementary school teacher created one. Here, she discusses the inspiration behind her idea and how the Salad and Go concept is evolving.
What inspired you to create Salad and Go?
Our story started about five years ago. I was just about to turn 30. My husband’s a few years older than me. We both started having our parents deal with some health issues, specifically heart disease, which is really hard, obviously, when you are watching your parents go through [everything from] heart attacks to bypass surgery. It was kind of this unique point where we were seeing our parents as young in our eyes, and we were old enough to know that that’s going to be us very soon. And so that unique perspective made it really clear to us that your health is something not to be taken for granted.
We thought that as long as you went to the gym and you [stayed at a] good healthy weight, that meant you were healthy, and what we realized was we were not putting the right food into our bodies and we were really taking our health for granted. So, we started taking a close look at the food we were eating and we did our own research, and we watched movies like Food Matters and Fork Over Knife. And the message became very clear that food is medicine and you are what you eat, and there are these nutrient-rich foods and these healthy fats that we’re really missing from our diets.
How did you decide to change your diet?
We started first at the grocery store, like, okay, grocery shop, cook from home, control what we’re eating. But it honestly didn’t last long, and I'm sure a lot of people experience this. You’re working full-time, and if you do want to get to the gym or do something after work and have meetings run late, by the time we even got home to start cooking, it was 7 p.m. I'm starving. I just want to eat. The last thing I want to do now is cook.
We found ourselves to be almost jealous of those people that would swing through the drive-thru from their air-conditioned car and be done in five minutes. It was frustrating. You either had to succumb to eating traditional drive-thru fast food if you wanted to enjoy the speed and convenience and affordability, or you were able to eat good food. We almost felt like consumers were being forced to choose between their health, and convenience and affordability.
So you and your husband decided to start your own restaurant. What was the process behind that?
We decided we were going to do something about this, and we did our research, and we quickly found that there’s a reason high-quality, fresh ingredients are definitely more expensive. To be a true alternative to drive-thru fast food, we needed to make these expensive ingredients and be able to offer the same price point as drive-thru fast food. We’re not going to be able to charge $12 for a salad and expect that someone is going to trade up from their $5, $6 combo meal for a $12 salad.
So, we said, if we’re going to create change, we’re going to need a true alternative, and that means match their speed, price, convenience, but offer that great-tasting, good food. So that’s where we really had to re-engineer that business model to make up for the high food costs.
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To read more about Salad and Go, including when one will open near you, click here for the original story from Fast Company.