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Startup Stories

Devising a multiunit growth strategy is an important goal for any start-up chain. Some operators built growth into the initial plan. For others, it can take years to the financial success that paves the way for regional or national expansion.

In the May 1, 2005 issue, R&I reported on chain start-ups and the trials and tribulations that go along with the growth. We then followed one start-up, Starwich, a young New York City-based sandwich concept with ambitious plans for the future, in a Web exclusive. Eric Schmitt, president and chief executive officer at Tossed, another New York City-based salad concept, also has agreed to give exclusive accounts of the real world of chain expansion. Growing beyond New York, Schmitt will provide regular dispatches from the trenches, writing candidly about the process.

Tossed: Shaking Up Its Growth Strategy
A Day in the Life of Eric Schmitt, President and
Chief Executive Officer, Tossed

Eric Schmitt, chief executive officer and president, Tossed, New York City

The honeymoon has to end sometime; at least that’s what I thought. But seven years after the first Tossed opened on Park Avenue South in New York City, customer lines still snake out the door every weekday at lunchtime.

I joined Tossed as chief executive officer and president in 2004 after spending 20 years in franchise development. I was attracted by the concept’s simplicity and potential: green-leaf salads tossed to order in front of the customer in a quick-casual, upscale and non-salad bar setting.

In Livingston, N.J., we seat 37 customers and we serve between 300 and 400 salads a day from our location in a small strip mall. Park Avenue has 20 seats.

In 2000, Tossed became the word’s first online salad bar, allowing customers to create and order a salad from their laptop by logging on to our web site.

The Tossed location in Livingston, N.J., seats 37 customers and is one of three locations currently open.

New York City is like no place else so taking a successful Manhattan-launched concept nationally can be risky. That’s one of the reasons we made the decision to stray from our original prototype. The new design for future locations will require 2,400 square feet and have seating for 50 to 55 customers. We think it’s the perfect mix of both square footage and seating for metropolitan and suburban areas across the country. Our ideal locations include downtown and suburban locations with a strong residential/commercial mix and middle to higher median incomes.

When some concepts find success, they sometimes make the mistake of skipping levels in their growth and the space is too big—downtimes are inevitable for any food concept—and the rent is too high. While we’re veering from original plans for our restaurant size, we haven’t jumped to an extreme. We think we’ve made Tossed even more attractive to both prospective investors and our customers by still being able to adhere to our original tenets: offering a fresh, healthy alternative to traditional fast-food with compelling ROI potential and a simple retail build-out design.

Find out what Eric Schmitt, chief executive officer and president, recommends for other chain’s pursuits. Ask him questions through .

(L to R) Eric Schmitt, president and chief executive officer; Jason Chodash, executive vice president; Marc Meisel, founder, executive chef and vice president of operations
Tossed Snapshot
First Unit :
Upscale salad bar; average salad price: $5.95 to $10.95
Most Popular Menu Item:
Tossed Signature Salad with baby field greens, chicken, goat cheese, toasted almonds, mango, jicama, cucumber and dried cranberries with sherry vinaigrette.
Average Check:
$9 to $10
Dining Space:
1,000 to 1,850 square feet
Average Sales Volume:
$3.6 million (3 locations)
Total unit count:
Three: two in Manhattan and one in New Jersey. A Florida unit is in development
Growth Plans:
The company expects to open 200 units in the next five years.

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