DavidsTea co-founder targeting healthy eating market with salad restaurant venture
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The man behind DavidsTea, a chain that sought to make tea as ubiquitous as a cup of Starbucks coffee, is now attempting to make salad more appealing to the masses.
David Segal's new eatery Mad Radish opened its first store in Ottawa on Friday. The co-founder says he wants to change how some people perceive salad — from an unsatisfying choice that can leave one hungry to a nutritious, tasty option.
"This ain't no rabbit food," says Segal, who co-founded his tea shop chain in 2008 but left his role as the company's brand ambassador last year in part to build the Mad Radish brand.
Segal feels there's a dearth of the type of healthy, filling options in Canada, pointing to the number of burger joints dotting the landscape. Segal sees those fast-food places as Mad Radish's biggest competition.
He shrugs off suggestions that chains catering to health-conscious eaters have become more abundant, with even fast-food operators adding salads to their menus.
Freshii (TSX:FRII), for example, operates 301 stores across 15 countries as of March 26, 2017, according to financial documents. The chain, which espouses a nutritionally dense, fresh food philosophy of eating, plans to grow to 840 restaurants worldwide by the end of 2019.
Chipotle Mexican Grill operates 17 restaurants in Canada as of the end of last year, according to its most recent annual report. The burrito chain touts its food as containing farm-sourced ingredients that are prepared by hand.
Segal says Chipotle doesn't fall within the same category as Mad Radish, while the challenge with Freshii is taste.
He highlights his chef's fine-dining background and the limited menu selection — a dozen salads, containing complex, fresh ingredients prepared in-house — as a big differentiator.
"Our goal is to be world class at salad," he says.
Mad Radish will open a second Ottawa location July 24, and Segal says he's planning for up to five more eateries in 2018. He says to expect additional locations in his Ottawa hometown, as well as Montreal and Toronto.
Locations won't be limited to downtown streets. Segal believes the concept will work in suburban food deserts offering little more than burgers and fries, as well as alternative spots like airports.
"We'll keep going as long as we have customers out there that are loving what we're doing," he says.
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