A proud son of Italian immigrants, Joey Cioffi is the Founder and CEO of the Salad House, a family-friendly, fast-casual, healthy salad concept in New Jersey. Joey’s father, who immigrated to the United States with only $20 in his pocket, heavily influenced his decision to start his own eatery. With the same work ethic as his father, Joey has worked in all areas of food service, including dishwashing to fulfilling catering orders. He launched the Salad House flagship in 2011 — six more followed, and three new locations are set to open soon.
Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:
- Joey Cioffi discusses his background in the food industry
- What can customers expect at the Salad House?
- Joey talks about the early days of being an emerging entrepreneur
- What makes the Salad House a lucrative franchise opportunity?
- Joey’s franchise goals for the Salad House
- How did the pandemic impact the restaurant’s operations?
In this episode…
Joey Cioffi grew up in the restaurant business, but after feeling “handcuffed” to the family pizzeria, he decided to make his own path. As faith would have it, Joey was destined to pick up where his father left off and run his own food joint. So what was the defining moment that pushed him back into food service?
After hearing his wife’s desire for a nearby chopped salad eatery, Joey happened upon an empty storefront in his neighborhood, a lightbulb went off, and the rest, as the saying goes, is history. But was the business an overnight success?
Listen to this episode of the SpotOn Series with host Chad Franzen of Rise25 as he speaks with the Founder and CEO of Salad House, Joey Cioffi. They discuss Joey’s background in the restaurant industry, his career as an emerging entrepreneur, and franchise goals and opportunities.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
- Joey Cioffi on LinkedIn
- Salad House
- Salad House on Instagram and Facebook
- Chad Franzen on LinkedIn
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Welcome to the Top Business Leaders Show. Powered by Rise25 Media. We feature top founders, executives and business leaders from all over the world
Chad Franzen 0:20
Chad Franzen here, cohost for this show where we feature top restauranteurs, investors, and business leaders. This is part of our SpotOn series. SpotOn has the best-in-class payment platform for retail and they have a flagship solution called SpotOn Restaurant, where they combined marketing, software, and payments all in one. They serve everyone from larger chains like Dairy Queen and Subway to small mom-and-pop restaurants. To learn more, go to spoton.com This episode is brought to you by Rise25. We help b2b businesses to get ROI clients referrals and strategic partnerships through done for you podcast. If you have a b2b business and want to build great relationships with clients referral partners have thought leader in your space, there is no better way to do it than through podcasts and content marketing. To learn more, go to Rise25Media.com or email us at Support@Rise25Media.com. Joey Cioffi is Founder and CEO of the Salad House with six New Jersey locations. And three more coming soon. Hey, Joey, thanks so much for joining me today. How are you?
Joey Cioffi 1:15
Thanks for having me. Doing great, beautiful day here in New Jersey. And I’m excited to chop it up with you.
Chad Franzen 1:21
Yeah, very nice. Hey, so as I mentioned, you’re the Founder of the Salad House. Prior to that, what was your background?
Joey Cioffi 1:28
So I’m gonna kind of give you know, it’s kind of a, you know, it’s a little confusing without starting from the beginning. You know, I’m a proud descendant of, you know, immigrant parents that came over from Italy, you know, chasing the American dream, they use food as the vessel to achieve the American dream. So I was kind of born into the business. So I was kind of, you know, as soon as I was able to look out and be able to reach over the counter, start ringing people up and washing dishes, and, you know, so, so I kind of was born into the business, you know, through my parents, you know, and, you know, they’re hard working, you know, in their stores that they they opened up, you know, when they first moved into, they moved to New Jersey, from Italy,
Chad Franzen 2:15
What kind of stores that they open up?
Joey Cioffi 2:18
So they, excuse me, I’m sorry, about that. I put it on mute. All right. When you have all these places, I’m sorry. So when they first came over, it’s, it’s actually a little bit a little bit more interesting in the sense where he, when they first came over, they didn’t know what they were going to do was my mom and dad, they were 18 years old, they were newlyweds, they had no clue as to what you know what path they were going to take. They didn’t know the language. So it was very difficult. And, you know, wasn’t the streets were paved in gold, like they, you know, like, they were kind of sold on that. So when they came here, they first worked in some factory. And it was like seven days a week, they lived in a little tiny apartment. And it was just really, really tough sledding, like it was just they, you know, they were just like, what do we do, we left Italy, where life was so nice. And, and they came over here thinking that, you know, you automatically become you know, you make money. You know, just from coming over to America. My father started, they went to this one pizzeria in New York, that my father used to frequent and he got to know the owner. And the owners like, he was like, once you learn how to make pizzas, once you come behind, you know, like, come help me out and stuff like that. So he goes up pay and food and you know, be able to just like, you know, hook up. So my father started learning how to make pizzas. And he got pretty good at it pretty quickly. And he started realizing, like, you know, he’s this guy, you have to work in a couple shifts, where he thought he’s just gonna get paid and food, the guy’s like, you know, here’s, here’s $25, like, back then in the 50s, you know, late 50s $25, like, he made that entire week’s worth of work. And this guy was given it to him after a day or two of service, you know, he’s like, he goes, there’s something to this business. So he started working for the guy. And eventually the guy was like, you know, what I, you know, had enough of his business. He was all you know, say the business and you know, the building like it was apartment above the bill, the restaurant, my father was able to scrounge up a little bit of money and this and take a loan and be able to open up Tony’s Pizzeria, which is still there in New York to this day. Back from the 50s Easy original Tony. He’s not no longer the owner, but he was the original Tony. And, you know, he had to grind man, he had to really sink. You know, he, it was so, you know, it’s crazy to think now that I look back on it. And, you know, he had an apartment upstairs where he had to basically he literally the place was open 24 hours a day because he was getting phone calls. Like in the middle of the night. People were like in the weekends, maybe drunk or something calling up so like you’d have a cell phone, he’d wake up, take the water, but as he was make the pizza and then deliver it like that’s the kind of hustle that my father had. And, you know, you know, and have the most respect for them, you know, for everything they’ve done. But so that was sort of like the beginning of this, this journey. Then fast forward, you know, years gone by, they ended up moving restaurants like, you know, buying closer in the suburbs union. And then Springfield, New Jersey is the that’s the place I pretty much grew up in working. We’ve opened up that Italian deli pizzeria caterer opened in 1981. And I was basically, you know, born into the business in that specific location.
Chad Franzen 5:37
So, so, so you founded the Salad House, before we get into kind of like, the evolution of it, just tell me about maybe what a customer can expect when they go there today.
Joey Cioffi 5:46
Okay. So I’ve tried fast food, I’m sorry, I just I’m very passionate about my dad.
Chad Franzen 5:51
Joey Cioffi 5:54
So I’ve been in the food business, I got education there better than any school, you know, I graduated Monmouth University for years, played football there, got a finance degree, went to Wall Street, wasn’t for me, went back into the family business. And, you know, being in that business, it teaches you so much about life, it teaches you about, you know, you really understand where money comes from, you know, it’s an old expression, you know, where the money comes from. And it also like it, you know, kind of teaches you to hustle and when to get out there and go get it. My father, so but as I was there, I always wanted more for my life. And I always wanted to like, it was always paying attention to the food trends, and you know, figuring out what, you know what the next move might be. And as much as my father and my brothers 14 years older than me, you know, the way they ran that store, I wanted something a little bit different, because, you know, I hate to say they’re handcuffed to the business, but they were handcuffed. We all were handcuffed to the business. I mean, you know, it’s, you know, it was never big family vacations, and, you know, working six, seven days a week, you know, we had a shore house that we never went to, you know, so like, yeah, it was good business. But at the same time, there was no, you know, the free time wasn’t there. So I kind of wanted to create something where I saw the food trend going, but I also wanted to make something that was scalable, and be able to, you know, kind of like, plug in and then open up another location in another location. So the sound is, the idea came up in 2010, where I was at a traffic light, I saw vacants, I first saw a vacant storefront in Millburn, New Jersey, where, right away a light bulb went off in my head, because my wife would always complain that there was no chopped salads in the area. And it was all in New York City on every street corner. But in the suburbs, there was no tops out. And so I went home that night, and I’ll never forget, I stayed up till like three or four in the morning, writing up a business plan. And I was just like, you know, I think this is it, I you know, but I wanted to do it in my own way. I didn’t want to follow the lead of chopped or any of these other salad concepts. You know, I wanted something a little bit more that that lended itself more to suburbs and two families because I have family three kids. And, you know, I kind of I know the struggle when when you when everyone’s asking what do you want to eat? You know, one person wants salad when kids want chicken fingers, you know, I want a sandwich. So it’s like, so that’s what, that’s how, you know, salad is that’s the agenda. That’s basically the beginning of the Salad House was street corner. So vacant sign pads of paper, pen to paper. And, you know, the rest is history?
Chad Franzen 8:24
Sure. So, so if a customer were to go in there now, what would it kind of be like?
Joey Cioffi 8:30
So we are accustomed, like a customer’s house shop where you customize your own, make your own salad. You know, we’ve now implemented kiosks in all our locations, so it makes it a little bit easier. But when we first started, it was like just a piece of paper, it was a salad card that you’d fill out exactly what you would like, you know, in your salad and dressing in. And it right from from jump, I implemented a system where you’d save it on file because we’re like creatures of habit. And it’d be easier for you to be like, Oh, Chad’s out, boom, like, you know, like, now I know, it’s in the system. It’s easy. Call up, you know, here’s my telephone number. Boop, your salad comes up. So, but not only that, like, you know, the Salad House is it’s more for us every day. You know what I mean? It’s not like everyday people where it’s like, you know what, yeah, you want to you want to eat a salad, but you could also get fries with that talent. You want to sell it, you know, but maybe today you wanted to sandwich you know, a smoothie, you know, something a little bit harder, like, you know, our fried appetizers like our buffalo or Buffalo poppers, like, you know, so it’s like, you get more, you know, we’re healthy ish, you know, I mean, and we do all the staples of like, the healthy salads. So it’s that we’re not like that confusing, you know, crazy, you know, these these ingredients that you have to Google when you walk in there. So like it’s, it’s a warm environment where you’re not feeling any sort of, you know, like, Oh, it’s too chic for me, or oh, it’s like, you know, it’s like I got construction workers that you know, decided they will Are you healthier? They wanted to, you know, they come in there, they don’t feel intimidated when they walk into my store.
Chad Franzen 10:05
So you opened up your first location more than 10 years ago? Where was that? And what were the early days there like?
Joey Cioffi 10:11
So since 2011, that’s when we finally opened the doors. And it was a success, right from jump, we were doing really well. And, you know, there’s a lot of tweaks, there’s a lot of, you know, when you start a concept, it’s there was always like, you know, mistakes, and, you know, trying to figure things out, especially, considering the space I took was pretty small, was like a little over 900 square feet. So I was like, kind of, it’s really, it was like a small space, especially considering, you know, our footprint now. So, there was there was a, you know, we were learning we were learning as we were growing, but then I started getting customers from other towns, most notably, Morristown, New Jersey. So from Melbourne, you know, they were driving 25 minutes away from Morristown and come this house multiple times a week. So I was just like, you know, what I got, I think I gotta get, I gotta get myself into this town. So I did the old school, walk, I walked the streets, and asking people, where do I get to? Shopstyle? Where can I get in? Right away? Like, no, well, you go to this restaurant or pizzeria and, you know, I asked him to chop this up. I’m like, so I was like, Okay, this is gonna this this is a good town for it was able to open up my second location. It was in Iran 2014 ish, sort of forget yours, as these are moving around to down and we got in there. And right away, you know, Morristown was was also successful. So it was just, it was exciting times, you know, but I had two stores, in the family business that like, you know, I was taking a flyer on this, and, you know, seeing if this worked. So like I would my hands were full of three children at home as well.
Chad Franzen 11:49
Yeah. Well, you said you were successful, right from the jump. Why do you think that was, there was
Joey Cioffi 11:54
a void of marketplace. And I think there’s a void in the, in suburbs, and even in, you know, the, you know, in middle America and other places around, you know, where it’s like, you know, eating salad isn’t taboo anymore. It’s not, you know, it’s not something where, you know, like, only people that are healthy are on a diet, like, you know, you know, Sunday, you know, Monday is Tuesday, Wednesdays are kind of our busiest days. And I always be like, oh, man, it’s crazy. We’re always busy Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and a pizzeria business. We’re always busy later in the week, like Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and then one Sunday, you know, it’s like a Ghibli, my thinking about this earlier. One Sunday ate like, crap all day long barbecue, something like that, Oh, my God, it’s more of a sorted diet. And it was like, oh, that’s why we’re made sense, you know, as to why, you know, we are, you know, but so that’s so I thought so, you know, long, long answer to your question. You know, I just figured, you know, there is a void of market, you know, there’s a void, you know, for salad and healthier foods.