Get To Know Chop’t Creative Salad Company’s CEO Nick Marsh

Manhattan-based Chop’t Creative Salad Company, which has locations in Mount Kisco and Rye Brook, is riding the wave of America’s appetite for healthy, quick food. CEO Nick Marsh says the 22-location chain, which boasts 11 million customers annually, is “trying to capture, and perhaps lead, this massive trend of people’s awareness” of what they’re eating. And it’s doing so successfully: Open since 2001, every Chop’t location since has been a runaway success—often serving out-the-door lines filled with loyal, health-conscious customers. 

We interviewed Marsh, who grew up in Larchmont and graduated from Mamaroneck High School, to find out what the chain’s suburban expansion means for Chop’t’s business, and, of course, Westchester salad lovers.

Chop’t Creative Salad Company CEO Nick Marsh

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How did you get into the restaurant biz? 

I was one of the guys who started Cosi back in 1997, in the early days of what’s now called ‘fast casual.’ The idea was that better ingredients on better bread made a better sandwich. At the time, there wasn’t really a name for that particular niche of the restaurant industry, but now there’s a whole bunch of different companies evolving people’s thinking about fast food. 

How did you get involved in Chop’t? 

I got involved first as an investor in 2006. I was very fortunate to be introduced to Tony Shure and Colin McCabe, the founders of Chop’t, and they were clearly taking this whole idea of ‘better’ to a new level. That was very exciting to me. 

Chop’t is now up to 22 locations. What has guided your growth?

We have pursued a controlled-growth strategy pretty religiously. At the end of the day, the restaurant business is a tough business. No matter what you do, you need a great location to have a successful restaurant. We tried to go at a manageable pace to make sure every location is a great Chop’t location, and we’ve been very fortunate. Part of that is because we’ve been careful. Part of that is because this is a food people want to eat. 

How does picking a location in the suburbs differ from cities?

We want to create a restaurant that easily fits into your daily routine. The Rye Ridge Shopping Center and the Riverside Commons 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 you go to all the time.

How has your expansion into Westchester impacted your business? 

At our Rye location, our customer base is 70 percent women, and we serve 250 kid meals a week. As we move into the suburbs, a huge portion of our customer base is the mom who is busy and who is looking for an easy solution to eat healthy for herself and her kids. In response to that demand, we’re rolling out a new kids’ menu. We’re eliminating soda in the restaurant, and rolling out our line of custom Chop’t iced teas. We’ll also be adding [Rye Brook will be the first location] what we call ‘Warrior Bowls.’ A Warrior Bowl, instead of being lettuce-based, is grain-based—quinoa, lentils, and other grain mixes, topped with all of our locally sourced Chop’t ingredients.  

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None of your locations are franchised. What is the advantage of not franchising?  

We think innovation is critical in the restaurant industry today. Things are moving so fast in terms of people’s tastes and the flavor profile people are interested in. We need flexibility to respond to that, to launch new programs, to try new things, like the Warrior Bowls and iced teas and kids’ meals. [Not being a franchise] gives us more opportunities to push boundaries. We’re more nimble.

What’s the secret to building a successful brand? 

The No. 1 key in the restaurant industry is to consistently delight people. Our founder, Tony Shure, has a great line: ‘We went into this business to make people happy.’

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