Thanks for Visiting!

Register for free to get the full story.

Sign Up
Already have a account? Log In

Return of the Lunch: Salad Chains Are Thriving

Bracha Arnold
May 24, 2023
Return of the Lunch: Salad Chains Are Thriving

The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent work-from-home orders dealt a significant blow to many downtown lunchtime eateries –  but now, salad chains are once again experiencing an increase in visits. We take a closer look at three leading players in the industry - Chopt, Sweetgreen, and Just Salad – to see how they are faring in a hybrid office world.

More Salad For You 

Chopt, Sweetgreen, and Just Salad all experienced visit growth over the past few years relative to a January 2020 baseline, with the three chains consistently outperforming the wider QSR and fast-casual categories. Visits to these salad chains have been on an upward trajectory from mid-2021, despite pandemic restrictions, hybrid office formats, and inflation.

What is driving the resilience of these chains? One possible explanation is that, as interest in healthy food continues to rise, more and more consumers are frequenting restaurants where they can grab a nutrient-dense meal. 

The visit growth is also likely driven by fleet expansion. Sweetgreen opened 36 new stores in 2022 and Just Salad nearly doubled its physical footprint between 2021 and 2022, while Chopt has also expanded into new markets.

Lunchtime Runs Look Different

Pre-pandemic, many office workers looked forward to their daily salad bowl. But with many offices going hybrid, how have visitation patterns to these lunchtime destinations shifted? 

A closer look at the visitor journey for salad chain customers indicates that more people are visiting these chains from home, with the share of customers to each chain coming from home increasing between 2019 and 2023. At two of the three chains analyzed the share of customers returning to their homes following a visit also grew.

This suggests that, despite the staying power of remote and hybrid work, many consumers are still willing to venture out to grab lunch – and salad chains seem to be pivoting to meet their customers where they are. Sweetgreen and Just Salad are focusing their current expansion on the suburbs, while NYC-based Chopt is moving south to reach more residential areas. And the increase in overall visits coupled with the larger share of traffic coming to and from work indicates that this strategy seems to be working for these brands. 

Loyal to the Salad

Location intelligence indicates that the three salad chains are not only seeing strength relative to pre-pandemic – zooming into more recent traffic metrics indicates that these brands are also solidifying their position among healthy food fans. Sweetgreen, Just Salad, and Chopt all saw an increase in their share of returning visitors between Q1 2022 and Q1 2023. 

The increase in returning visitors may be partially due to the chains’ respective loyalty programs. Sweetgreen’s loyalty program, which has both a free and paid tier, relaunched in April 2023. Eco-conscious Just Salad gives customers discounts for bringing in their reusable bowls, another way to encourage repeat visits in addition to its loyalty program. And Chopt, which has leaned into the omnichannel restaurant trend, operates an app which allows guests to customize their order and earn rewards. 

Fresh Bites

Once a fixture of office-building-heavy downtown areas, the salad bar has managed to adapt and shift to a new hybrid-work reality. By building customer loyalty, tapping into consumer interest in healthy foods, and even relocating to the suburbs, these salad chains prove that they can thrive under all circumstances. 

For more data-driven dining insights, visit

Get 3 brand & industry
breakdowns every week

Subscribe to the newsletter

Great! Prepare your inbox for data-driven insights...
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Get a Demo

Please enter your first name
Please enter your last name
Please provide a valid email
Please enter your email
Please enter company name

Thanks for reaching out!

One of our experts will be in touch soon

Try Free
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Text Link
Text Link
Just Salad
Checking in With Nike and Lululemon
Black Friday 2023 Retail Recap
Starbucks’ 2023 Holiday Menu & Red Cup Day Performance
Turkey Wednesday 2023
Who Attended the 2023 Pickleball Championship? 
Three Surprising Holiday Shopping Trends
What’s in Store for Ulta Beauty This Holiday Season?
Best Buy and Department Stores: A Holiday Deep Dive
Discount & Dollar Stores: Strength Toward The End of the Year
The State of Off-Price Retail: Discounts Seal The Deal
Placer Mall Index Recap: October 2023 Office Index: October 2023 Recap
Retail Corridors Ahead of the 2023 Holiday Season
California, Here Gap Comes
Checking in With Home Improvement
Getting Into the Glasses Game: Warby Parker Takes Over
Fitness Positioned for a Strong 2023 Finish
White Paper Recap: October 2023
Coffee Giants Brewing Up Business
Popeyes and Burger King Lead the Way
Diving into Yum!
Looking Ahead to Black Friday 2023
Blockbusters Drive Movie Theater Comeback
Crocs and Boot Barn: Shoe-Ins for Success
McDonald’s and Chipotle's Winning Recipe
The State Of Steak: Checking in With Texas Roadhouse
Pleasant Pastimes: Pickleball Potential Proves Potent
Who’s Driving Downtown Manhattan’s Weekend Revival?
Diving into Downtown Manhattan Foot Traffic Trends
Rite Aid: Rightsizing Right
Major League Soccer: Its Die-Hard and Casual Fans
The Anchor Recap: September 2023 Office Index: September 2023 Recap
Placer Mall Index Recap: September 2023
September White Paper Recap
The Consumer Habits of College Students
JCPenney: Rightsizing and Revitalizing
Pent-Up Demand Ahead of October Sales Events
4 Strategies Retailers are Using to Drive Traffic to Their Venues
5 Key Regional Grocery Players Impressing in 2023
Upscale Kitchenware Trending Up
Costco Finds More Room for Growth
Four C-Store Chains Making an A-Grade
National Parks + Outdoor Summer Activities
Diving Into Darden: Summer 2023 Update
The Summer Event Effect
Messi: Massive in Miami
Looking Back on Back to School 2023
The Anchor Recap: August 2023 Office Index: August 2023 Recap Mall Index: August 2023 Recap White Paper Recap: August 2023
Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte Strikes Again
Big Scoop: We All Scream For Ice Cream
Sports Away: Lululemon & Nike’s Momentum Continues
Summer Visits Heat Up For Recreation and Outdoor Gear Chains
No CSS overwrite - July 2023 Office Index Recap
Staging - August 2023 Mall Indec
Mid-Atlantic Grocery Deep Dive
Experiential Chains Heating Up This Summer
Petco Goes Big by Going Small
Ulta Beauty: Leading the Discretionary Pack
Discount and Dollar Chains Continue to Thrive
Summer of Sports: DICK’s Sporting Goods and Hibbett Sports
Off-Price: Succeeding Into Summer
The Anchor Recap: July 2023
Superstores Maintaining Pandemic Gains Amidst Economic Headwinds
2023: Home Improvement at the Halfway Point
July 2023 Office Index Recap Mall Index: July 2023 Recap
The Taylor Swift Visit Lift
Southwestern Grocery Dive
July 2023 White Paper Recap: Halfway Point Review & Quarterly Index
Yum! Brands: Driving Dining Visits
Slurpees and Summer Movies Stimulate Consumer Foot Traffic
Cool Beans: Summer Coffee Update
Checking In on Back to School 2023
Crocs and New Balance Tip The Scales
Burger Bliss: Shake Shack and In-N-Out Stacking Visits
Chipotle & McDonald's Continue to Reign Supreme
Vibenomics and Partner to Enhance Retail Media In-Store Measurement
California Grocers Here We Come!
Marriott’s Different Audiences
Bonchon and Kura Sushi Thrive in the Fast-Casual Scene
A Shoe In: Footwear Climbs to the Top
Cheers! Raising a Glass to Beverage Retail Office Index: June 2023 Recap Mall Index June 2023 Recap – A Turn of the Tide and a Dive into Open-Air Lifestyle Centers
Local Kitchens: Redefining the Restaurant
Unlocking Urban Insights: The Value in Manhattan’s Employees
Ohio State Parks On The Rise
How is Inflation Impacting the High-Income Shoppers?
Five Fast-Growing Dining Chains
What To Expect From Prime Day and July Sales Events in 2023
The State Of Fashion: How Are Apparel Retailers Faring in 2023?
2023’s Latest Dining Success Story: GEN Korean BBQ House
The NBA Finals: A Location Intelligence Perspective
Moving the Market: The Impact of Domestic Migration on Housing Costs
Post-Pandemic Museum Update
The Darden-est Things