Whether it’s the ease of getting a greasy burger and cheesy fries or the convenience of picking up a cheap frozen pizza, it’s no secret more young professionals resort to ready-made junk food due to their busy schedules. But many millennials today would rather choose a bowl of fresh salad than those high calorie carbs if they were as ubiquitous as grub from other takeaway spots. “This is the future of fast food,” says Kent Mosbech, UK master franchisee of Salad Box, the Romania-founded healthy restaurant franchise, which comes with the tagline: ‘Food is life. Make it good.’
This isn’t his entrepreneurial debut though. As the CEO of Impellity, the business consultancy responsible for supporting product growth in any market, Mosbech is always on the go – but the foodie within probed him to enter the culinary industry. “What’s better than healthy food which caters to good taste as well as your fitness routine?” he says. After all, modern entrepreneurs want scrumptious ready-to-eat meals that are also conducive to fitness. “Whether you’re a fitness enthusiast or not, Salad Box is a place which can please anyone,” he adds.
Given London booms with new eateries every month, one must assume the consumer options are large. After buying Salad Box’s franchise rights for the UK, Ireland and Scandinavia and analysing the market, Mosbech says there was a dearth in salad bars. “There are healthy restaurants but the salads you get are in a plastic bowl and made hours ago,” he details. “It’s nowhere nearly as nutritious. The condensation that happens inside a plastic wrapping changes the whole structure and taste of the salad. We believe in fresh, locally sourced, organic ingredients.”
Salad Box is the first franchise project Mosbech took on and the seed was planted when a Romanian employee spoke of the success experienced by the company in its home market after launching in 2012. Little did Mosbech know he would be tasting similar success just 12 months after his first store opened in Brick Lane in July 2017. “It was all quite sudden, quick and proved to be profitable,” he says.
Nestled between cheaper curry shops, it was the local community that acted as a boon to the brand. “As a company which wants to scale across the country, we also wanted to stay focused on the local market,” he adds. “We went to the corporate companies and offered catering services.” Apart from that he started delivery services through Deliveroo and Uber Eats and the sales grew exponentially. “You might have a few more walk-ins without delivery but in the long run you win as you get more customers,” he says.
Ireland, which saw its first store open in July 2018, follows a similar strategy under the helm of franchisee Mike Kelly. “There is a difference in every place where brand promotion is concerned, especially with social media,” explains Mosbech. “So we prefer bringing in a local marketing team to take charge of that. Whatever drives people through our doors is worth it.”
From taking luxury products to household items across Europe with Impellity, Mosbech surely knew his onions when scaling a company. “With a domestic strategy in mind, we hired an operational manager to overlook the franchisees, who [had] cut his teeth while [previously] working for McDonald’s,” he says. “We also had the Romanian staff come and assist the franchisees to train them. [If you] get the right staff and the right manager, you inevitably see an upward curve on your profit scale.”
Apart from receiving training from the franchisor, Mosbech took a few pages out of its book about franchise operation. “The founders are young and full of beans,” he says. “They want everyone associated to the brand to be profitable.” For instance, the franchisees are given the freedom to choose a supplier of their choice, unlike other franchises. “As long as it’s approved by us,” he adds. “We run a quality check but beyond that we don’t put any restrictions. Our franchise model is very open and unique.”
When it comes to recruiting franchisees, Mosbech looks for business acumen instead of hospitality experience. “It’s not rocket science to be a restaurant manager,” he says. “We can train them in the kitchen as long as they have an entrepreneurial spirit.” He received over 2,000 franchisee applications and, upon shortlisting, potential ones were taken to the HQ to be given a crash course of what’s entailed with a tour of the flagship stores in Romania. This was followed by training to make sure they comply with the brand.
However, taking the food chain global was bound to unearth a few differences between the Romanian and British stores due to the distinct palettes alone. “We introduced some new ingredients in the UK after our market research,” reveals Mosbech. “For instance, avocado – people love it.” Apart from that, they also decided to make the branch halal-friendly due to the location and clientele around.
In addition to recipes, regulations aren’t the same in both countries. For instance, restaurants need to adhere to the health and safety rules in the UK, something that isn’t as strict in Romania, Mosbech says.
There are other challenges the master franchisee faced too. While setting up, the company was in a pickle when it came to a potential branch in Kingston upon Thames that was due to launch this year. “There were disagreements with the franchisee but it was our learning curve – it didn’t deter us from scaling further,” recalls Mosbech, adding eight franchisees are set to launch in Blighty after all the paperwork is completed and a further 20 are in the pipeline. It’s proof that, as Mosbech says: “London presence has a value.” Indeed, despite these problems, the company is above its targeted profits.
Having explored over 70 locations worldwide, Mosbech is confident that the UK, Ireland and Scandinavia will see over a 100 franchisees in the next five years. Deep fried, inexpensive joints may be a mountain to scale but he has his climbing kit ready. “If we can get even a part of the niche market who want a healthy lifestyle then we will do fine because I will bring to you what the top restaurants in the city, or even Europe, can’t offer,” he concludes.