Nick Marsh knows his way around the fast-casual dining business. Today he’s the CEO of Chop’t Creative Salad Company, which boasts 16 locations in New York (two in Westchester in Rye Brook and Mount Kisco) and 11 in Washington, DC, plus one opening in Greenwich, Connecticut, this fall, but he’s also (in his words) “one of the guys who started Cosi,” which, needless to say, has been a runaway success.
We spoke with Marsh about Chop’t’s expansion into the Westchester suburbs (keep your eye on the upcoming Q4 issue of 914INC for more on this), first with the existing Rye Brook and Mount Kisco locations, and now with the coming Greenwich location.
If you know Chop’t, you probably think of it as an urban lunchtime stop-in, a grab-your-salad-and-head-back-to-work spot. But Marsh is busy figuring out ways to cater to Chop’t’s growing suburban clientele—which is a much different market. Here’s how he’s adapting:
Women and children comprise a much larger portion of the customer base in the suburbs. That’s a huge change from working professionals. Marsh is making a point to cater to both. “At our Rye location, our customer base is 70 percent women, and we serve 250 kid meals a week,” Marsh explains. “As we move into the suburbs, a huge portion of our customer base is the mom who is too busy and who is looking for an easy solution to eat healthy for herself and her kids. Over Labor Day, in response to that demand, we’re rolling out a new kids menu. We are eliminating soda in the restaurant, and rolling out our line of custom Chop’t iced teas—‘destination iced teas’—to mix in some unexpected flavors, along with the old traditional ones. We’ll also be adding (Rye will be first location) what we call ‘Warrior Bowls.’ A Warrior Bowl is, instead of being lettuce-based, grain-based—quinoa, lentils, and other grain mixes, topped with all of our locally sourced Chop’t ingredients.”
Location is perhaps even more important in the suburbs than it is in Manhattan. To integrate your restaurant into a suburbanite’s daily routine, you need to seek out shopping centers and areas that residents visit frequently. After all, it’s not like city markets, where hundreds of thousands of people are guaranteed to be working Monday through Friday, in need of lunch. It also helps if the food you’re offering complements the services in that shopping center. For example, as Marsh notes, Rye Ridge is a fitness hub—with places like The Bar Method, Personal Training Institute, Ripped Fitness, SLT, SoulCycle, etc.—so where better to sell salads?
“We want to create a restaurant that easily fits into your daily routine,” he says. “So the Rye Ridge center, the Riverside shopping center in Greenwich, [are places] people visit two to three times a day, not two to three times a week. The same way we are part of your normal routine in our urban stores because we’re at the bottom of your office building, we’re a part of your normal routine in the suburbs because we are at the shopping center that you’re going to all the time.”