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05/02/2022

Technology Amplifies Just Salad’s Sustainability Efforts

On its new mobile app, Just Salad introduced sustainability-oriented features including an earth-friendly menu tag for items that are plant-based and lower on the carbon footprint scale.
Anna Wolfe
Senior Editor - Restaurants
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Just Salad is leading the charge when it comes to embedding sustainability across its operations. 

Sustainability matters to today's consumers and restaurant operators. Two out of three (66%) consumers surveyed feel it’s important that restaurants are open about their practices to limit food wasteAccording to the National Restaurant Association’s annual What’s Hot Culinary Forecast, sustainability will continue to influence menus and how restaurants make decisions in 2022. 

Here are just a few of Just Salads’ initiatives: Just Salad Reusable Bowl program helped avoid 3 tons+ of single-use waste in 2021.  In partnership with Deliver Zero, the brand offers reusable containers for pickup and delivery orders on DoorDash and Caviar.  A seemingly small move – asking customers on their orderjustsalad.com orders if they want to opt-out of single-use utensils -- avoided over 2,200 pounds of unnecessary waste.  And the list goes on. 

HT recently caught up with Sandra Noonan, Chief Sustainability Officer for Just Salad, shortly after the fast-casual brand released its Annual Impact Report, for a chat.

HT: What role does technology play in this sustainability initiative?

Sandra Noonan, Chief Sustainability Officer: Technology plays a big role across several of our initiatives:

  • For example, we maintain a Sustainability Dashboard in one of our analytics tools. There, we can track things like orders of our lowest carbon-footprint items, and what percentage they comprise of total sales mix. We can look at that trendline over time. This helps us determine if we are communicating effectively about the carbon labels on our menu. For example, if we see a spike in the trendline on a certain date, we can ask if a certain promotion or communication drove that increase. We also track waste diversion and estimated carbon emissions reductions resulting from our reusable bowl program, using POS data.
  • We relaunched our mobile app with a fresher, sleeker user interface, earlier this year. With that relaunch, we introduced sustainability-oriented features including an earth-friendly menu tag for items that are plant-based and lower on the carbon footprint scale; a 'Climatarian' dietary filter for items that have the absolute lowest carbon footprints on our menu; and a utensil opt-out feature – and discount – for customers who wish to opt out of disposable utensils on their delivery orders. (Slides 10-13 within the report include great visuals of these features within the app.)
  • We are working on integrating our reusable bowl program into our mobile app so that you can order your meal in a reusable bowl, receive a reminder to return the bowl to the store, and we’ll take care of washing and sanitation. Currently this program is in pilot mode at two stores through our website, but we plan to add it to the app and scale it up from there. Technology helps us scale up our impact in other ways.

HT: Tell us more!  How is Just Salad working to reduce food waste and what role does technology play in those efforts?

Noonan: For example, when we were looking for a scalable way to reduce waste from surplus food left over at the end of the day, we partnered with the app Too Good to Go, which offers a great user-friendly platform for purchasing great-tasting surplus food from restaurants at the end of the day, at a steep discount. Their platform lets us assess, in real time, how much surplus food we’re keeping out of the waste stream and the estimated reductions in greenhouse gas emissions resulting from those efforts.

We speak with startups who are using artificial intelligence to build tools that help operators forecast food demand more accurately on a given day, to minimize waste. We haven’t entered that arena yet, but I think there is potential here.

HT: How is Just Salad gauging/measuring/tracking customers' interest in sustainability? 

Noonan: We use analytics, as described above, and we also analyze the impact of promotions. We’ll ask, are sustainability-related promotions moving the needle on a longer-term basis? For example, for Earth Day 2022, any customer who purchases our Climatarian menu online, or orders in a Reusable Bowl in-store, will pay a discounted flat price of $8.99. Taking that promotion as a baseline, we’ll assess, over a multi-week period, if participation in our Reusable Bowl program saw a sustained increase. We’ll use our POS and digital ordering data to assess this.

To learn more about sustainability at Just Salad and to download the full 2021 Annual Impact Report, visit tinyurl.com/jssustainability.