FE&S: Describe the kitchen layout.
SR: The kitchen is about 25 percent of each restaurant's square footage. Our menu doesn't require much cooking. We have a convection oven to bake the salmon and pita chips, a grill to prepare the chicken, and burners to warm up soups. Salata's concept is more about salad prep. This area contains a two-bay vegetable sink, two prep tables and three cutting boards. We don't have any food processors or automatic equipment, since everything is cut and sliced by hand.
FE&S: What are the most important aspects you look for when purchasing equipment?
SR: I tend to always purchase the same brands and types of equipment. My decisions are based on durability and, in terms of our ovens, energy efficiency. Equipment needs to be a long-term investment.
FE&S: Fresh produce is a huge part of your operation. How do you address the perishability factor?
SR: We have produce delivered every day, and chicken is received three times a week. Our huge walk-in cooler stores the bulk of our vegetables. We also have one two-door freezer, since we don't have a lot of frozen products, other than shrimp and tortillas. It's important to be organized so as not to waste vegetables. We forecast sales and order product based on past volume.
FE&S: What are the biggest challenges in running a restaurant with a salad-oriented menu?
SR: It can be difficult keeping everything looking fresh, since salad is fragile. It's important to keep up with the spillage and clean areas right away. We really focus on our fresh-looking appearance.
FE&S: What are the plans for Salata in the years ahead?
SR: Our operation is growing. We have three franchises with locations in Dallas and have signed up a new franchise in Houston. We will have five locations opening by the end of the year. People want to eat healthier. Everyone is realizing they need to lose weight to feel good. That's why the salad restaurant concepts are doing so well. There is increased awareness in eating right.