David Laborde, director of product development at the Houston-based Salata chain, made his first-ever visit to the National Restaurant Association Show this year.
The salad chain, which opened its first store in 2005, has 32 units and will be debuting another one in Wheeling, Ill., in July.
Laborde took a break at the show on Sunday to answer some questions at the Nation’s Restaurant News booth.
Would you tell us a little about Salata?
We have 32 units now in Texas and California, and we’re entering into Chicago this summer. We plan to open 15 units for the rest of the year. We’ll be pushing 50 by the end of the year.
What do you see as the biggest challenge to growth?
The biggest challenges for us are personnel: staffing and training. What we’ve found recently is that we can build a store faster than we can train a manager to run it. We need to do that successfully to make sure the brand can keep growing.
What are you looking for at the show to meet that challenge?
We’re definitely looking for point-of-sale software. I’m looking for data mining. I need to be able to pull reports, and I can’t do that right now. And also I’m looking for ease of use. And I also need for our IT [information technology] guys to be able to make changes on the back end.
What are your general impressions of the show, this being your first time?
It’s a lot. It’s a little overwhelming. I’ve been to many shows before and came from the distributor side. I kind of knew what to expect, but this is definitely overwhelming. I’m just taking it one aisle at a time. I’m doing them all.
What has caught your eye so far that you could use?
The local seafood. I’m looking to make connections with Gulf Coast seafood purveyors. That was something that I really wanted to do to start making contact. I didn’t necessarily want to make the buying decisions at the show, but I wanted to make the contacts. It’s a great venue to look at all at once.