Los Angeles-based virtual restaurant company and digital brand platform, Salted, is making waves with the dual announcements of a $14 million series B fundraising round and the acquisition of Mediterranean concept, Xenia. Salted CEO Jeff Appelbaum hopes to both re-define and refine the virtual restaurant industry moving forward. He sees Salted as part-delivery brand operator, part-concept incubator, and part-technology company.
“We really want to be the company that is focused on hospitality in this space,” Appelbaum said. “Up until now, that that has been a huge pain point. If you’re ordering online, it’s a roll of the dice… and we want customers to know that when you order from a Salted brand, you are going to get an experience that's really consistent…we had to build software to win on consistency and quality at scale.”
With the series B investment, Appelbaum said they will continue to scale and build the Salted platform to both acquire and create the digital-first “restaurant brands of tomorrow” and focus on balancing technology (including a proprietary operating system) with hospitality.
With the acquisition of six-unit Mediterranean concept, Xenia — the company’s first-ever external acquisition — Salted is adding a new pita, falafel and tzatziki-focused flavor profile to its portfolio of bowls, lunches, and pizza-based concepts like Moonbowls and $5 Salad Company. Currently, Xenia’s menu is available at six Salted locations across the country but will be expanded over time.
“We believe it's important to own and operate the brands, but we realized probably about a year ago that we have the opportunity to find emerging restaurant brands before they ever emerge and launch them across the Salted platform,” Appelbaum said. “As we think about continuing to grow, we're excited to have this ability to find these brands that have struggled to get to scale and accelerate them with our expertise and operations specifically for delivery and takeout.”
Part of the challenges with growing and maintaining a delivery-only restaurant platform is maintaining quality, which is something that other ghost kitchen brands have struggled with. But for Appelbaum, food quality is not just part of the equation—it is the most important ingredient, along with digital hospitality. Without both of these elements, any delivery-centric restaurant platform will falter over time. By fusing data-based digital technology with a hospitality mindset, Appelbaum said that they it’s easier to ensure food quality.
“Imagine building restaurants in a world where you don't have a large corporate overhead and you're not visiting your kitchens every day, and you're also not seeing your customers in person who can tell you that you forgot their avocado, or messed up their order,” he said. “We’re collecting data from about 25 different APIs, and we photograph every single item on our product lines. We’re tagging these photos for quality, and then we're taking that feedback into the kitchens. So, we know on the other side of the country if a vegetable is not properly charred and can catch it before it goes out to the consumer.”
Moving forward, Salted hopes to expand its platform geographically and through more acquisitions.