By Tanuvi Joe | July 23, 2021 | greenqueen.com
The healthy fast-casual restaurant chain Just Salad announced its largest-ever capital raise. Focused on building a circular economy, investment firm Closed Loop Partners participated in the round along with existing investor Panda Restaurant Group, the parent company of Panda Express. Just Salad will use the capital to double the number of its restaurants and scale its reusable bowl program.
Investing in a circular economy
N.Y.-based investment firm and innovation centre Closed Loop Partners is dedicated to scaling the circular economy in North America and around the world. The firm aims to achieve this through the use of sustainable food packaging, alternative materials and reuse systems, along with their leadership in the NextGen Consortium, a partnership that helps the commercialization of these alternatives.
Investing in Just Salad marks the company’s first restaurant investment and aims to drive the healthy fast-casual chain’s closed-loop systems across the foodservice industry.
“We are impressed with Just Salad’s innovative approach to embedding zero-waste principles across their business,” founder and CEO of Closed Loop Partners, Ron Gonen said in a statement. “They are a pioneer of reuse models at scale, creating the world’s largest restaurant reusable program and illustrating their commitment to extending the life of valuable packaging materials. Their continued growth demonstrates the viability, feasibility and desirability of circular business models.”
Apart from Closed Loop Partners, Just Salad’s existing investor, Panda Restaurant Group, one of the largest Asian dining concepts in the U.S., also participated in the round.
“It has been rewarding to be part of Just Salad’s journey since the start of our partnership in 2014. Their growth in urban and suburban markets is impressive and is the result of great operations and focus on people development,” said Andrew Cherng, co-founder and Co-CEO of Panda Restaurant Group. “We are looking forward to supporting this next phase of Just Salad’s expansion and the impact they will make through their upcoming initiatives.”
They (Just Salad) are a pioneer of reuse models at scale, creating the world’s largest restaurant reusable program and illustrating their commitment to extending the life of valuable packaging materials. Their continued growth demonstrates the viability, feasibility and desirability of circular business models
–Ron Gonen, founder and CEO of Closed Loop Partners
Reusables – the way forward
Just Salad will use the capital to help incorporate reusables across the foodservice industry with its Reusable Bowl program.
In its annual sustainability report, the chain mentioned that packaging and containers amount to 23% of the waste that ends up in the country’s landfills.
To address this problem the takeaway packaging waste which makes up for nearly half of the ocean’s plastic pollution, the restaurant concept launched the Reusable Bowl program in 2019. Each time consumers dine at a Just Salad location, they are charged US$1 for a reusable bowl and they can then drop their used bowls at the participating outlets to be sanitised for use again. Since its inception, the sales of the program has soared over 100% year-over-year.
In 2022, it will expand its award-winning program to digital orders and in exchange, will provide participating customers loyalty rewards.
Apart from this, the capital will be directed to expand its present geographic footprint from 47 locations to doubling that number over the next two years. It will further execute new environmental sustainability and technology programs.
Founder and CEO of Just Salad, Nick Kenner, said: “The white space for Just Salad is truly incredible. Just Salad is on its way to becoming a larger part of the national landscape and that means unrivaled, craveable food and more sustainable eating for America in general. The tailwinds are strong, and it’s about executing at a high level while still focusing on each and every customer.”
In the past, Just Salad unveiled a meal kit brand, that requires no prep or subscription calling it the “next generation of meal kits”. The meal kits are delivered to your doorstep without any plastic packaging.
In addition, it has launched a new menu item, the Zero Foodprint Salad in collaboration with Zero Footprint (ZFP). A part of the profits from each order is directed towards projects that support regenerative farming practices. Through this, the restaurant chain wants to support farmers in restoring the soil’s health and promoting carbon sequestration.
The Environmental Protection Agency recognized the chain as a regional WasteWise Award winner.