Picadeli is bringing affordable, sustainable salad bar options to the on-site foodservice space

Picadeli salad bars are popping up more and more in the on-site foodservice space. Here’s a look at how the salad bars offer sustainable, affordable products with minimal labor.
PIcadeli Salad Bar
Picadeli's salad bar at Maryville University. | Photo courtesy of Picadeli.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought forth the death of the traditional salad bar for many operations. But that didn’t stop the demand for fresh affordable food. At least, that was the experience of Maryville University Dining Director Linda Thacker. She saw demand for a salad bar and began looking for a solution that was sustainable, affordable and labor-conscious. 

Soon after, Thacker read an article about European salad bar company, Picadeli, launching salad bars in Schnuck supermarkets. So, she visited a bunch of different stores, tried out the salads and even spoke with staff. She later reached out to Picadeli to see if she could bring its salad bars to campus.  

“It really came from a need where the one thing students have been asking for was the salad bar. And of course, they removed it for COVID,” said Picadeli CEO Patrik Hellstrand. “And they didn't want to bring it back because it's so hard. And they were left with this huge void that students were asking for. So that's why she went up to sort of seek for a solution.” 

Picadeli’s salad bar launched at Maryville University last summer and, “it's been a fantastic journey. It was a huge hit from the get-go,” said Hellstrand.  

“I am extremely excited to have the partnership that we have with Picadeli. My goal has always been to serve our students on campus with quality ingredients and healthy options,” said Thacker.  

Feedback from the foodservice team and students alike has been positive, said Hellstrand. The success of the launch even allowed the team to expand the size of the bar during winter break and add additional food offerings.  

Here’s a deep dive into Picadeli and how the company is making waves in the on-site foodservice space.  

U.S. debut  

Hellstrand has a background in hospitality, as well as health and fitness. He also worked as CEO for casual restaurant companies such as By Chloe and Oath Pizza. This is where he learned some insights that influenced his work with Picadeli. The first takeaway that stuck with him, was that the trend of $15 salads served in primary markets was not helping most people in America eat better.  

“Because one, a lot of people don't live in those places and two, most people can't afford $15 For lunch every day,” he said.  

So, he began tackling the challenge of creating an affordable salad, specifically, an $8 salad. Hellstrand and his business partner then heard about Picadeli, a European salad bar company and brought the company to the U.S. in 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“When the whole world was taking out salad bars, we started a started a salad bar business and so of course people in the beginning thought we were completely insane,” he said. “But we kind of knew that original traditional salad bars aren't going to come back at scale.”  

Now, the company has 76 U.S. locations in sites such as grocery stores, military bases, universities and corporate dining locations.  

So, what makes Picadeli different?  

The affordable nature of the salads is one aspect that sets Picadeli apart from its fast-casual competitors. Hellstrand said the price point of the salads has been received incredibly well by consumers. To achieve that lower price point, Hellstrand said that the company produces food at scale in large facilities which creates a lot of efficiencies. In addition, the concept helps reduce food waste and requires minimal labor.  

“The ability to reduce the amount of waste and the amount of labor allows us to take those two wasted resources and essentially bring it back as value to consumers, meaning you can produce better food at a better price because you don't have to amortize the cost of that waste, that labor and the cost of that wasted food,” said Hellstrand,” So essentially, we're just converting waste into quality and value and price” 

Sustainability is also a core feature of Picadeli’s salad bars. Salad bars are a huge culprit of food waste, said Hellstrand.  

“It's almost impossible to understand how much you should order; how much you should prep for it. And then at the end of the day, you have to empty out the entire bar and throw it out,” he said. 

 In addition, salad bars often require a lot of labor because they must be rebuilt the next day.  

Picadeli solves for this problem by using algorithmic ordering. In doing so, Picadeli is able to generate the “perfect” order to ensure consumers get the right amount of food to begin with. Then, they optimize each of the food compartments so they have the right amount of food, allowing it to run out before it expires. In addition, the food items are lab tested for shelf life.  

“Once you scan a food item in, it sits there until it's either consumed or expires. That means that you don't have to empty out the entire board in the night and throw everything out,” said Hellstrand.  

The other area of sustainability is around product selection. For instance, there are no red meats served at the bar. Instead, it offers veggies and lettuces, plant-based proteins, pastures, grains, and sustainable protein like falafel, chicken, eggs and seafood.  

But the number one challenge the salad bar solves for is labor.   

And when it comes to labor, running the salad bar is simple. Employees simply scan in new produce, take out any expired produce and refresh utensils.  

“A traditional salad bar might require 80 to 100 hours in a foodservice setting. Ours is between 15 and 20 hours. So, it's much, much simpler,” said Hellstrand.  

And the salad bars provide an elevated customer experience, said Hellstrand.  

“We effectively solve all the things that are wrong with traditional salad bars,” said Hellstrand. “So, for consumers [there] are things like digital signage [and] touchscreens, where you can see full nutritional panels of everything you're eating.” 



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