If you love a good salad and lots of choices, look no further than Lettuce Eat Salad Co. Situated in East Memphis’ Carrefour shopping center, Lettuce Eat offers fresh, fast, tasty salads in a casual and convenient location. At the helm is 25-year-old Kelcie Allen, executing her vision alongside restaurant veteran Ben McLean.
Kelcie, a native Memphian, spent her college career in New York City attending LIM College where she studied fashion merchandising. While in the Big Apple, she enjoyed the convenience of grabbing a healthy meal at one of the many salad shops. “It all goes back to NYC. I ate salads every day there because they were so accessible. Literally, you could find a salad shop no matter where you were. So, I was definitely inspired by my time there and it’s where the idea came from.”
She returned to Memphis for her senior internship (with me!) in development at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art and was promptly hired as a Development Associate by the Church Health Center upon graduation. Kelcie had always had an itch to own her own business and saw a need for a salad shop like those she had enjoyed in the northeast. After working at her day job, this enterprising young lady diligently set about researching and writing her business plan for hours each night.
2014 has been a big year for Kelcie. In September she married Chad in a beautiful wedding at the River Café in Brooklyn and signed the lease on the restaurant. We caught up with Kelcie about what she loves most about her new restaurant gig and being a newly wed:
Running a restaurant requires lots of long hours. Is it worth it?
“I love coming to work everyday. In fact, it doesn’t feel like work at all. I have been working long hours for sure, but it’s worth it! I graduated in May of 2011 with a BBA. I’ve always wanted to have my own business, it was just choosing which business I wanted to go for. I decided on a salad shop because of the need for it in Memphis.
Does your husband work with you much, and is that easy or a challenge?
“My husband is a part owner, but his involvement is minimal for the time being. He is keeping his day job while we see how Lettuce Eat does. If we decide to expand, then he will definitely become a major part of Lettuce Eat. He does work here whenever he has free time. He is great at interacting with the employees and making sure that they are efficient in their jobs. He’s a great encourager! I wear so many hats here, so he picks up the slack where I need him to. I’m more of a planner and he goes with the flow, so he balances me out and helps me see the big picture.
How did you make your dream the reality that it is?
“Lordy, I spent all day at work and then would come home and work on the business plan for hours everyday. I just read as much as I could find on other salad shops around the country. I started playing with numbers and what it would cost to open Lettuce Eat and realized that it might actually be possible for me to do it. It started out as sort of a pipe dream. I needed to get some actual figures on what real estate would cost. While doing that I found this space at Carrefour, and things started moving much faster! I signed the lease and the rest is history.”
What can you tell us about your yummy menu?
Create your own salad from the variety of unique toppings and ingredients—6 different lettuces, 23 vegetables, 11 different proteins and chicken and tuna salad, 7 different cheeses, 3 different nuts, 4 fruits, and 6 “crunchies”—or choose from one of the tasty menu items, including the light and lovely Kale Yeah, featuring kale, quinoa, almonds, Crasins and goat cheese tossed with raspberry vinaigrette; the We Be Salmon, with spinach, salmon, tomato, Cotija cheese, walnuts, Craisins and tossed with balsamic vinaigrette; or for the meat lover looking for a hearty, savory option, the Steakhouse, made of Romaine, fried onions, tomatoes, blue cheese and tossed with ginger soy vinaigrette.
What’s your personal favorite salad?
The Southwestern, with the Kale Yeah close behind.
Thank you, Kelcie, for a tour of Lettuce Eat! See you there soon, and best of luck as your business continues to grow! Visit the website for more information: www.lettuceeatmemphis.com.