It’s no understatement to say that Ottawa native David Segal understands the business of retailing consumable products. In just eight years, the entrepreneur transformed his first venture, DAVIDsTEA, into a publicly-traded retail giant worth $200 million when he left the company in 2016. He’s now hoping he’s still got the Midas touch as he launches a new brand, starting in his hometown. Mad Radish, a national chain of salad shops, opened its first two locations this month – downtown at Albert and Metcalfe as well as in the Glebe – and the fresh, wholesome concept is already garnering rave reviews.
I visited with David in the downtown location and was impressed by both the concept and his enthusiasm. His idea is pretty simple: shake up the traditional salad routine by making the most fun and flavourful ingredients the star of the show, rather than just using them as garnishes for a bed of ho-hum greens. The kitchen transforms eighty ingredients into about a dozen large meal-in-a-bowl salads on offer, all made fresh to order, from scratch.
Every aspect of this business model has been very well thought out from the clean, minimalist décor to the diligently sourced ingredients served in 100% plant based, compostable packaging. That’s the trash-less part of the model; it’s also ‘cashless’ – only debit and credit will do. A Mad Radish mobile app even lets people pre-order salads for pickup in 15 minutes supporting the healthy grab-and-go premise, though there is room to eat in. Even better, orders placed online will also result in a donation of produce to Community Food Centres Canada; the local beneficiary of this kindness will be Perth’s The Table.
In addition to salads, the menu includes warm bowls, snacks and sides plus beverages. It’s been developed by chef Nigel Finley, known for his finesse in the kitchens of Toronto restaurants The Chase Fish & Oyster and Catch. “Co-founder Stephanie Howarth and I had one driving principle, which was to create healthy, satisfying dishes that were truly crave-worthy,” David said. “There are options out there that are good for you but don’t necessarily taste great; we wanted something that was delicious and healthy at the same time and have worked with a nutritionist to ensure we’re doing this right.”
While more than half of the menu may be vegan, there is plenty for omnivores to love as well. David says his favourite bowls include the smoky Caesar and tagine dream, adding that the fired up chicken is a fan favourite, as well as the tabbouleh and falafel salad which delivers a nice little spicy kick. “We will be switching our menu five times per year, including fall, winter, spring, early and late summer,” says David. “Our goal is to keep it as fresh and flavourful as possible.”
Impressively, Mad Radish has hired over 60 people already and David confirms that making it a great company to work for is a big objective. “We are really big on building a strong team and know that we have a lot to offer. People will learn culinary skills and there will be room for advancement. We are constantly recruiting and encourage people to apply. I think everyone who works here now enjoys being part of something innovative and having the chance to impact people’s health in a positive way through food. Based on the tremendous initial reaction, I think we’re going to have a lot of people falling in love with Mad Radish.”