Nick Kenner is the co-founder and managing partner of Just Salad, a New York City-based fast casual restaurant concept devoted to serving healthy, great-tasting food at fair prices and in a fast, fun environment. Alongside childhood friend Rob Crespi, Kenner conceptualized Just Salad in 2006 to fill a much-needed niche in urban culinary landscapes, providing delicious and health-conscious offerings in a fast, fun and friendly environment. Since opening the first Just Salad location in 2006, Kenner has grown the brand to 24 locations worldwide by remaining dedicated to his core principles of delivering affordable, healthy, and high-quality options to consumers in a welcoming environment and in environmentally responsible ways. Under his leadership, Just Salad established an international presence with locations in Hong Kong and Dubai, and continues to thrive in New York City, New Jersey, and soon Chicago. Kenner has been recognized for his entrepreneurial accomplishments by Inc.’s 30 Under 30 list. He grew up in New York City and graduated from Colgate University with a degree in Political Science.
How did you get into the Culinary industry?
THOUGH A PASSION TO PROVIDE HEALTHY, QUALITY, QUICK FOOD.
Tell us about Just Salad. What inspired the idea and what is your vision for the company?
WE STARTED IN 2006 AND AT THAT TIME YOU COULD NOT GO TO A MAJOR CITY, AIRPORT, MALL AND SIMPLY GET HEALTHY QUICK FOOD THAT TASTED GOOD. OUR GOAL IS TO BE THE TRADER JOE'S OF FAST FOOD, A PLACE WHERE YOU CAN COME IN AND GET GRASS FED BEEF OR ORGANIC TOFU AND BE HAPPY ABOUT THE PRICE YOUR PAYING.
What strategic partnerships/marketing strategies have you implemented that have attributed to Just Salad's success?
THE REUSABLE BOWL HAS ALWAYS BEEN A HUGE PART OF OUR BRAND AND IS HOW MOST PEOPLE RECOGNIZE US.
What industry trends are you noticing and how do you capitalize on them?
WHEN WE STARTED IT WAS ALL ABOUT CALORIE COUNTS, LOW CARB AND LOW FAT. NOW ITS ABOUT LOCAL, ORGANIC AND NON GMO. WE FEEL THE LATTER IS A LASTING TREND AND WE ARE EXCITED THAT WE HAVE BEEN ABLE TO ADJUST OUR SUPPLY CHAIN TO HAVE A MEANINGFUL AMOUNT OF LOCAL AND ORGANIC OPTIONS AS WELL AS THINGS LIKE GRADDFED BEEF, ABF CHICKEN, SUSTAINABLE SEAFOOD... ALL WITHOUT CHANGING OUR PRICE POINT.
DONT HAVE ONE
Your greatest success as Proprietor of Just Salad? Most difficult moment-how did you overcome and what did you learn?
FINALLY GETTING TO THE POINT AND GETTING THE SCALE TO OFFER HIGH QUALITY PRODUCTS THAT HIGH END RESTAURANTS USUALLY SERVE IN A CHEAPER AND QUICKER FORMAT HAS BEEN REALLY REWARDING.
Your advice to an aspiring restaurateur?
TAKE THE TIME TO THINK THROUGH AS MANY ANGLES AS POSSIBLE BEFORE YOU OPEN THE RESTAURANT BECAUSE ONCE THE TRAIN GETS MOVING ITS MUCH HARDER TO SHIFT GEARS.
Describe the ideal experience at Just Salad.
SOMEONE IS IN A RUSH TO GET TO A MEETING, STARVING BUT WANT SOMETHING THAT MAKES THEM FEEL GOOD, THEY SEE A JUST SALAD WITH A LONG LINE BUT GET IN AND OUT IN 5 MINUTES AND HAVE THE BEST SALAD OF THERE ENTIRE LIFE.
How important are architecture/design to the success of Just Salad?
ITS BECOME A LOT MORE IMPORTANT. WE ARE CURRENTLY IN THE PROCESS OF DEFINING AND UPGRADING THE LOOK AND FEEL. WE ALWAYS WANT JUST SALAD TO FEEL ACCESSIBLE BUT WE WOULD LIKE TO MAKE SOME COMPONENTS MORE REFINED.
Most popular dishes/drinks and your favorites?
I LOVE THE AVOCADO DREAMISCLE SMOOTHIE, ITS PRETTY AMAZING, THE SPRING CLASSIC CRUNCH IS A SIMPLE BUT AMAZING SALAD, SOMETIMES I GO ALL OUT AND GET THE SMOKEHOUSE STEAK SALAD WHICH NEVER DISAPPOINTS.
How do you motivate your employees?
CARE, MONEY, AND OPPORTUNITY TO ADVANCE. WE HAVE A BUNCH OF MONETARY INCENTIVES THAT REWARD SPEED, GUEST SERVICE... AND THEN WE ALSO TRY AND DO THINGS LIKE COMPANY OUTINGS, FREE TICKETS TO BASEBALL GAMES... UNEXPECTED THINGS SO THEY KNOW WE GENUINELY CARE, OUR HR DIRECTOR LITERALLY PACES AROUND THINKING HOW SHE CAN GET OUR 600 EMPLOYEES TO CARE MORE.
One food and drink left on earth, what would you choose?
HA, I KNOW I AM NOT SUPPOSED TO SAY THIS BUT A NICE JUICY STEAK ON TOP OF OUR CALIFORNIA SALAD. THE DRINK WOULD PROBABLY SCOTCH OR TEQUILA DEPENDING ON MOOD.
What literature is on your bed stand?
YEAR ZERO: A HISTORY OF 1945.
Role model - business and personal?
CHIPOTLE, WARREN BUFFETT, STEVE JOBS
MY FAMILY AND FRIENDS
Favorite travel destination?
What's next for Just Salad?
CONTINUED EXPANSION OUTSIDE OF NYC. WE OPENED IN CHICAGO LAST WEEK AND SHOULD HAVE ANOTHER 4-5 LOCATIONS OPEN IN THE NEXT 12 MONTHS.