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Just Salad vetting bankers for auction

Illustration of salad in the shape of a dollar sign on a plate.

Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Fast-casual chain Just Salad is interviewing investment banks to start a sale process, a source close to its thinking tells Axios.

Driving the news: Just Salad checks several boxes of an attractive investment profile: growth, profitability, and a focus on healthy food and sustainability.

Details: The company will likely sell a minority stake to either a private equity firm or strategic, with the process concluding by summer or fall, the source says.

  • The founders continue to hold a majority of the company, while past investors include the parent of Panda Express and Closed Loop Partners.
  • Panda Express hopes to hold on to its investment and perhaps even increase it, the source says.
  • Money from a sale will provide liquidity to the other investors on the cap table and growth capital.

By the numbers: Just Salad's revenue was north of $150 million in 2023, up 50% from a year earlier, while EBITDA is just over $15 million, the source says.

  • Revenue will climb at least 30% in 2024 and EBITDA will increase to about $20 million, the source says.
  • The company generates over 50% cash-on-cash return.

The intrigue: Just Salad also owns all of its locations, nearly 80, with the possibility of opening about 20 more this year. It does not franchise.

  • That's unique to high-growth restaurant concepts, which tend to embrace an asset-light or franchise model.
  • For now, the company wants to continue to own its locations for quality control and to continue to refine the concept.

Of note: Just Salad is one of the largest Certified B Corp. restaurants in the U.S. and has a number of initiatives such as a reusable bowl program.

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