How Portland's Garden Bar Is Building a Salad Empire
This July, the local salad slingers at Garden Bar will open their first suburban locations, in Lake Oswego and Progress Ridge, giving the four-year-old chain 10 metro-area locations by the end of 2018. Cofounder and CEO Ana Chaud, 48, tells us about healthy eating, food accessibility, and how to eat a different salad every day.
What’s Garden Bar’s origin story?
I’ve always been a fanatic about nutrition and health. I realized we did not have a fast casual option for salad in Portland. I thought, “Why can’t we have the same idea as Chipotle, but in salads?” I went to New York and saw how well the concept was developed there. It’s been really good to introduce this with a Portland flavor, which is very different. Portlanders are a lot pickier—more demanding—because we have so much exposure to great food. For example, our truffle vinaigrette. Portlanders love unique ingredients and things that are more elevated, things that bring our salads to a different level of both health and flavor.
How much salad do you make?
We go through approximately 450 pounds of kale a week, 2,200 pounds of romaine, 750 pounds of chicken, and 1,100 hard-boiled eggs ... and I don’t even know how many avocados. Right now we use small farmers. I’d rather get something from Washington than something organic from China. Some items have to be organic—soy and corn, for example. The egg has to be free-range. Grass-fed beef is a dream; we’re not there yet. But we have wild-caught salmon, and our chicken is hormone-free. Everything is made in-house.
Who is the average salad-eater in Portland?
Everyone. People can be intimidated by healthy eating. They feel like they don’t know enough. We want to include everybody. If you don’t know what quinoa is, no big deal—we can go on and on and preach about healthy food. The cool thing about salads—you can change your palate every day. Do you know how many years you can eat a different salad every day? 9.8 million years! It’s all about permutations.
Besides expansion, what else is on the horizon?
To be more accessible. I’m going to partner with Veebie, who’s piloting a cross between a vending machine and an Amazon locker. I would love to bring it to high schools. We could reach more people without the brick-and-mortar. I don’t want to become a café. We sell salads. I want to make sure we stay true to that.