You Can't Be Just One Thing
Entrepreneur|July/August 2017

When Nick Kenner launched Just Salad, he knew exactly what his product would be. The rest? He ignored it. That is, until competition forced him to focus his brand—and get good at everything.

Andrew Del-Colle

It’s 9 a.m. on a cool spring day on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where the staff of the 71st Street location of Just Salad is about to be put through the wringer. Nick Kenner, the restaurant chain’s 36-year-old founder, is joining the team for the day. They’re standing in a circle, summer-camp style, running through introductions and icebreakers. “My passion has always been about operation, speed, and throughput,” Kenner says when it’s his turn.

After the intros, the group exercise starts. Employees take up their stations along the Chipotle-style salad line— cashier, lettuce packer, chopper, etc.—and a mock rush begins, with Just Salad’s head of HR pretending to be a first-time customer. As she follows her Caesar salad down the line, Kenner paces. He times the order while furiously typing notes on his phone, the lip of his coffee cup clenched between his teeth. “That was good,” he says afterward. The final time was a so-so 2:38. (The record is now 1:38.)

It’s what Kenner calls a “teamletics event,” and each U.S. store has one per quarter. Today’s was all about speed of service, and the team was well-prepped. But next quarter’s training will require more instruction. “It’ll be about our new menu items,” Kenner tells me, explaining that those new items are actually not just salads. And the move is about way more than expanding options— it’s part of Kenner’s plan to ensure his company lasts, amid rising rents and heated competition.

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