What is in this article?:
- Giardino Gourmet Salads to expand beyond Florida
- Growing on both fronts
The Miami-based salad concept hopes to grow in the U.S. and South America.
Julio Ramirez, part owner and board member, Giardino Gourmet Salads.
Giardino Gourmet Salads was founded in 2004 by Ody and Kenny Lugo, a former teacher and former firefighter, respectively. It has since become a mainstay of the South Florida restaurant scene.
The Miami-based chain offers salads, soups and wraps in its restaurants and via catering, a mix the company hopes will help it expand throughout the U.S. in the coming years.
Julio Ramirez, who worked for Burger King for more than 26 years, is a part owner and board member at Giardino. As a former executive vice president of global operations at Burger King, he has experience in growing a business both within the U.S. and internationally.
With one company-owned and seven licensed locations, Giardino plans to use franchising as its core growth method going forward, Ramirez said.
“I think you’ll see us grow,” he said. “There’s no reason why we couldn’t eventually be in Brazil and Argentina and places that are a little further away as well.”
Giardino is currently aggressively pursuing franchisees, according to Ramirez. “We want to make sure the basics are right before we go nuts trying to bring people,” he said.
Ramirez spoke with Nation’s Restaurant News about the fast-casual brand and plans to expand it in 2013 and beyond.
What are some of Giardino’s competitive differentiators?
We have tremendous customization. Obviously, we give customers the opportunity to make their own salads. We also have different types of croutons that are made every day. We have 11 different crouton varieties. They really complement the proprietary salads we have. Our emphasis is really on great tasting salads. If someone wants to eat healthy in our restaurants, they certainly can, too.
Another differentiator is our service. Instead of your salad or meal getting prepared along the typical assembly line, our “gardeners” create your meal from start to finish and are trained to understand the ingredients and how to use them in alternative and complementary ways.