The Psychology behind the Fast Casual Salad Industry

Courtesy of Boston Magazine.

Written by Nikita Verma

The high prices of these salads are part of the enticement. People feel good about eating salads because they feel like they’re investing in their health.

Walk into any Stern lecture around lunch time and you’re guaranteed to see at least one or two students with a plastic takeout bowl full of fresh greens. Whether it be from Sweetgreen, Chopt, or Fresh & Co, the fast casual salad industry is taking off, especially within the college student demographic.

Due to high demand, the fast casual salad industry has become highly profitable. Customers pay upwards of $15 for a salad, and are usually happy with their decision. When these same consumers have the option to pay $1 for a slice of pizza, the fact that this industry is so profitable is a wonder.

There are a few reasons why consumers are willing to pay so much. First, people pay for the convenience of healthy take out food. Eating healthy can be difficult, but these restaurants make it easy to pick up a salad on the way to class or a part-time job. Such convenience also makes it harder to justify not eating healthy. With so many unhealthy temptations around Washington Square Park, the way that eating a salad can make you feel makes people willing to pay more. These salads also fill you up, complete with a variety of veggies, proteins, and dressings that create a healthy and tasty option for college students.

The high prices of these salads are part of the enticement. People feel good about eating salads because they feel like they’re investing in their health. Many of the most popular salad retailers play up this reputation by priding themselves in using farm fresh ingredients, and having a variety of options for their customers. This way, customers can feel good about consuming 700 calorie salads, and are willing to come back because their meal leaves them satisfied. One avid Sweetgreen consumer states, “Did I just pay $18 for a salad? Yes. But would I have eaten a salad if if wasn’t $18? Probably not.”

Especially with such busy college students, who don’t always have time to meal prep and shop for their own ingredients, having an easy go-to healthy meal is often worth paying the few extra dollars.

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