A drive-thru salad chain that has its roots in Gilbert is raising its employee pay to $15 an hour.
The move by Salad and Go’s founders Roushan Christofellis and her husband Tony comes at a time when many businesses are struggling or closing their doors due to the pandemic.
The couple noted that many companies raised wages as hazard pay at the start of COVID-19 but several have now taken them away.
The couple’s business venture started in February 2013 when they opened their first location at the southeast corner of Gilbert and Guadalupe roads.
Today there are over a dozen Salad and Go restaurants in the Valley, including three in Gilbert and the company is looking to open more locations.
The drive-throughs offer healthy made-to-order salads with options.
The kitchen is helmed by chef Daniel Patino, whose Caesar salad the couple tasted at an award-winning restaurant years ago. That inspired them to create high-quality ingredient salads at affordable prices with the convenience of a drive-thru.
The following is a question-and-answer with Roushan Christofellis.
So the reason why you felt compelled to raise the hourly pay for your employees was related to other companies no longer paying COVID-19 hazard pay for their staff?
We felt raising the starting wage to $15 was the least we can do for the most important people in our organization. They deserve even more than $15 an hour but we are not in the position to do that yet. They deserve more because without them we do not exist. They are 100 percent essential and irreplaceable.
The more efficient we become, the more we will invest back in our people for higher wages. That’s part of our For Good Promise: invest in our people for higher wages, in our food for lower prices and more organic, and into our communities with free salads to the ones in most need.
How many employees are currently on staff?
We have 414 team members. Some are hourly and some are salary. Our starting rate for our hourly team members before the starting wage raise was about $12.70.
Did your employees receive hazard pay at the start of COVID-19?
We did provide hazard pay and continue to do so, which is 10 percent higher on all wages. We did not stop because we are still in the crisis.
On average, how many hours do your employees work in a week?
Our average hourly team member works 30 hours.
Are you raising prices on the menu items, or taking less profit to cover the increases?
We have lowered prices by 20 percent since June 2018. Our 48-ounce salads with chicken used to cost $7.18, today they are $5.74.
We lowered our organic cold brew to $1, as well as lemonades and organic iced teas, and lowered all our breakfast burritos to $2.99, while we have increased organics and improved dressing quality, taste and nutrition by using chickpea juice instead of mayo in our dressings.
Our mission is to make organic food affordable to everyone, not the few, therefore raising prices is not an option. We have never made a profit. We don’t measure success by profit, we measure success by how much good we do – higher wages for our team, lower prices and more organic for the consumer, and helping the community when they need help.
We gave away $250,000 of free salads to first responders, health care workers, retail employees and others affected by the crisis. We have since pivoted to giving 5,050 salads a week to homeless shelters and crisis centers.
We will pay for the increase in wages for our team with efficiency gains. Every business has the opportunity to become more efficient, but most businesses will raise prices when costs increase, instead of looking within.
We pursue efficiency perfection every day to cover the cost increases. When raising prices is not an option and you are trying to lower prices at the same time, you will do everything differently. Everything about Salad and Go is different and we like that.”
How many employees are you looking to hire?
We will hire over 300 new team members over the next 12 months.
You have 19 locations now in the Valley. Are there more planned beyond this and if so where?
We will open eight more locations in 2020 with more to come after that. All current and upcoming locations will be in Maricopa County.