Last week, it was reported that Just Salad is altering the way it prepares salads at its New York locations and will soon no longer offer customers the option to have their salads chopped. According to Nick Kenner, the chain's founder and CEO, Just Salad locations in Philadelphia, Chicago, and New Jersey have already switched to the new no-chopping protocol. Now, one New York location will change over each week until they're all using the new method. After news of this change began to circulate, many New York-based fans took to social media to express outrage about the change, despite the fact that Just Salad promises that the new, non-chopped salads will be better.
The decision to transition away from chopped salads all started in the kitchen. "Last spring our director of culinary development came to my office and asked me to taste two versions of our chicken Caesar salad. After tasting, I said that I could not tell the difference but felt that the romaine in one of them seemed fresher. She told me that the one with the fresher romaine was not chopped but the ingredients were prepped smaller by hand," Kenner tells Refinery29 via email. Soon after that, Just Salad decided to move away from chopping its salads.
In addition to increased freshness and fewer bruised vegetables, speed of service and quieter restaurants are other advantages to the switch, according to Kenner. "Now, we chop greens and ingredients on our time, not the customer’s time." Not chopping the salads should also decrease the risk of cross-contamination, which is especially positive for those with food allergies — or those who have recently developed a serious fear of romaine.
The stated advantages do sound like good reasons to make the switch to non-chopped salads, however it might also be a marketing move. Just Salad may have decided on the change as a way to differentiate itself from competitors like Chop't and Sweetgreen. Kenner did tell Eater that Just Salad locations outside of New York that have eliminated chopping have already seen a 20% sales increase, and he tells Refinery, the outcome has been great for both business and the consumer. "The response from our customers has been amazing, customer visits are up dramatically, and we are attracting more new customers than ever," he writes.
If it's true that so many good things have come from this switch, why has there been such a backlash? Are Just Salad eaters really against non-chopped salads or are they just resistant to change? With these questions in mind, we took to the streets and asked real customers to share their opinions.
While Just Salad did announce the change on its website, none of the women we spoke to outside Manhattan's Financial District location had any idea that the chain, which most of them frequented, planned to do away with chopped salads or what, exactly, that meant. When we informed them of the forthcoming switch, most were pretty bummed. "Unfortunate," "sad," and "odd" are a few different words used to describe the change.
A woman named Alex, who wished to keep her last name and age private, tells Refinery, "I don’t see how not chopping it would make it fresher. It will just be harder to eat with a fork because I’ll have to cut it."
This illustrates what seems to be the biggest reason for backlash against Just Salad's no-chopping rule. People seem to be misinformed about what a non-chopped salad is. While the pieces will be larger than they would be in a chopped salad — see the photos above for reference — they'll still be manageable because they will have been prepped before you order. However, apparently many people hear no more chopped salads and assume none of the salad's contents will fit in their mouths.
Despite confusion over what the new salads will be like and apparent annoyance over having to adjust to a switch, no one we spoke to said they were unwilling to try the salads. Though some New York-based social media users began making extreme declarations last week about never returning to the salad chain again, in real life, people were more level-headed, listing proximity to work and the fact that they've already invested in a Just Salad reusable bowl as reasons for not completely writing off the chain. "I’d definitely try it, and I’ll see how it goes. If I don’t love it, that might change how often I go, but we’ll see," says Jennifer, 31, who had a reusable salad bowl. Another woman, who wasn't comfortable sharing her name or age, explains, "There aren’t really many options around here close by my office, so I probably would still come."
In addition to those practical-yet-passive reasons, there was one woman who was actually quite open-minded. "I think if the salad turns out to be just as filling and satisfying then I’m content," says Elizabeth Arzt, 29. That's not usually the kind of response one sees on Twitter, which might be the reason for the impression that so many people are against this change. In reality, it seems like most customers are just creatures of habit, which means their dependance on the chain for lunch will probably win-out against their mistrust of and confusion over "Just Salad 2.0."