Kelowna-based The Chopped Leaf, which opened its first location in the BC city in 2007, has grown to more than 100 locations in five provinces with plans to add another 30 locations this year.
The Chopped Leaf, owned and managed by Innovative Food Brands, is focusing on Ontario, Manitoba and Atlantic Canada and locations are franchisee-owned and operated.
The brand was founded by Blair Stevens and his wife Karla.
“We’re in the quick service world. We’ve told our consumers we’re more so the full-service experience put into a quick service manner,” said Blair Stevens, President & Founder of The Chopped Leaf. “Our pride and joy is serving salads, bowls and wraps along with a few sandwiches and quesadillas.
“What makes our brand special there’s no doubt about it is the flavours of it. All our dressings and soups are those same recipes that my wife and I developed from day one that are unique recipes to the brand. We offer dine-in and takeout experiences.’
He said the original menu was created in the Stevens home kitchen.
“We knew that salads were the base of the menu. Karla and I would brainstorm over each family dinner and lay out what we thought was best. Karla would then get to work producing numerous dressings to test. Every home meal for some time ended up being a potential chopped leaf menu item,” said Stevens.
The name, The Chopped Leaf, came from the idea of a herb cutter (mezzaluna) chopping the lettuce.
Today’s new menu includes nine flavours available as a bowl, wrap, salad and the new shake-a-bowl packaging makes it easy to eat a fresh, healthy meal on the go.
“I came out of high school and worked some construction. My old man always said listen if you made some money we’ll match it and we can get into business together,” said Stevens. “I started off I owned a franchise of Blimpies Subs and Salads in Edmonton. Grew a second location. And then a couple of buddies and I had an idea of developing the Wok Box concept about 18, 19 years ago in downtown Edmonton.
“I was part of that initial growth with the Wok Box but living in Edmonton I knew my wife and I always wanted to relocate to Kelowna. That’s where we got married. We always wanted to do a brand that associated to our lifestyle so we began the search of a salad brand because there was continuous salads at our dining room table. On our searches we noticed that there was a salad craze happening down in the big metro cities in the USA and we knew we could take what they had and Canadianize it. We worked on the recipes and concept for over a year and we were able to come across an existing restaurant that is close to home and figured we’d throw everything in and try to make it happen.”
He said average stores are about 1,300 square feet and the brand lends itself to larger power centres with big anchors with lots of parking and easy access.
The average store has about 20 to 24 seats in it.
“A very efficient, compact lay out,” said Stevens.
“We’ve always been taking it since day one. It’s not about the numbers. It’s all about the quality over the quantity. But with that said, we are pushing, we’re coast to coast today. We definitely want to be focusing in on the Ontario market along with Quebec and the Atlantic. We are attending our first US multi-unit franchise conference here soon and we’ll be doing a big US push over the Q3, Q4 this year. We’re really excited about that for sure.
“We’ve been working on our brand for the past two and a half years. Of course, COVID was fun to deal with. But it was a good testament of how strong our brand was. We didn’t have one closure. We’ve rejigged our menu to simplify it for a better customer experience. We worked on this thing for a year and a half and we were able to just launch it a couple of weeks ago. It’s called One Bowl where it’s not only a simpler customer experience but it’s easy for us to execute behind the line which drives to a better consumer experience.”