Lettuce be frank: selling salads to steak-and-potato-hungry Dallas-Fort Worth diners hasn’t always been an easy feat.
Just ask Chris Dahlander.
When he set out a decade ago to open his first Snappy Salads location in Preston Hollow, the restaurateur said he encountered more opposition than he initially anticipated from banks, real estate bigwigs, and the like, who weren’t keen on its fast-casual menu of fresh-made salads, soups, and sandwiches.
He recalled having to “beg” for a meeting in order to secure Snappy Salads’ initial storefront at the Market at Preston Forest.
“It was not as enthusiastically accepted as I was thinking [it would be], to say the least,” said Dahlander, a Dallas native who formerly served as marketing director for the Romano’s Macaroni Grill restaurant chain.
“There was no roadmap for me. There wasn’t any other concept around that I was trying to copy. … No one else had really considered the idea of a salad-centric restaurant,” he said.
Much has changed in the past 10 years, including people’s attitudes towards food quality and healthy eating.
“There are enough burger places and chicken places and taco places in the world. There are not enough places where you can eat nutritiously,” he said.
As a result, Dahlander’s business has boomed.
Snappy Salads’ tenth location opened earlier this year in Plano, and another site is set to debut in October in The Colony.
Plans are in place for up to six additional stores to open around the Metroplex in 2017.
Meanwhile, 49-year-old Dahlander said he is also fielding requests for Snappy Salads locations in Austin and Houston, as well as outside of the state.
“We’ve been marinating, I like to say, for 10 years now and we’ve got our systems in place, our procedures in place. Now we just need to execute those again and again in various places throughout the country.”
It seems that Snappy Salads’ timing couldn’t be better.
The nation, Dahlander said, is “going through a realization that they don’t know where their food comes from, and they should. They don’t know what their food is doing to their bodies and they should. [People] generally understand that eating burgers and fries isn’t the healthy way to go, but they don’t really have options outside of that. That’s where we’re coming in.”
The company’s menu offerings have proven to be “transformative” for some diners, Dahlander said.
“Once people started seeing that we fresh cut all of our carrots and onions and tomatoes and made our dressings from scratch … they started appreciating all of the things that we were doing to really heighten that salad experience,” he explained. “I think once everybody started tasting that quality, they were hooked.”
Case in point: Snappy Salad’s best-seller, the Grilled Avocado salad, is loaded with red-leaf and iceberg lettuce, a corn, black bean, and poblano pepper relish, queso fresco cheese, sliced tomatoes and, of course, avocado, with a chipotle lime vinaigrette.
“It’s a life-changing salad,” Dahlander said. “We’re really proud of it.”
Another point of pride, he said, is the restaurant chain’s dedication to protecting the environment.
Its locations feature countertops made from recycled porcelain, beer bottles, and wine bottles. Tables are crafted from salvaged wood. To-go entrees and beverages are served in compostable containers.
Snappy Salads’ customers can get in on the earth-saving action by recycling compact fluorescent lightbulbs and batteries at each location. The company also hosts a pair of free electronic-waste recycling events semi-annually.
Having earned his Eagle Scout badge as a teen, Dahlander said he was “compelled” to make environmental stewardship part of Snappy Salads’ mission.
“I thought if I’m going to do this, I’m going to pour my heart and soul into it,” he said. “This is a big part of who I am and I think people will appreciate that.”