Nick Kenner is the co-founder of the food chain Just Salad, which currently has 10 locations in Manhattan, one in Park Slope and two in Hong Kong. He opened the first location with his middle school best friend at 320 Park Ave. in May of 2005. Before becoming a fresh greens guru, Kenner, 32, was an assistant trader at hedge fund Exis Capital Management until late 2005. He lives on the Upper East Side with his wife.
Why did you switch careers?
I had always wanted to start by own business with my best friend from middle school … We were both passionate that a healthy fast food restaurant needed to exist and it wasn't just New York, but it was in every airport, every college town, every city across America we felt that there needed to be a healthy fast food restaurant option. There were plenty of people who wanted to eat quick and fast who wanted really healthy options. The No. 1 thing was we felt there was a real void in the market but we also both took care of ourselves, we like to work out we like to eat well we like to feel good … and we knew so many other people that had similar lifestyles that wanted that offering.
What are some pros and cons of your new job?
The pros are, I have a business that I'm really proud of and I'm working towards goals that I really believe in and I get to work with a great team to try and accomplish those goals (and I get to eat healthy for free whenever I want, that's nice). The cons are just, having your own business is a great responsibility, not just to yourself but everyone that you hire and everyone that comes to your establishment. So it's a con but it's definitely something that's definitely worthwhile.
What's your favorite kind of salad?
I usually go with the Hudson Valley mix, but often switch the dressing for spicy buffalo. I like to eat vegetarian sometimes (it's vegetarian), and it's just got a lot of fresh vegetables that are high in anti-oxidants.
What do you think is the next big trend in salad?
I think mixing and matching the different types of lettuces is becoming increasingly popular, people don't just get kale or romaine or baby spinach, they mix them all together. And I think that's something that'll continue.
What is something new you'd like to do with your business?
I think the goal is really to just continue to expand to places where people truly want us, and you know I think that there's a lot of different cities that we're excited to try out. We're opening in Dubai next year and there's just even new neighborhoods in New York City. I think continue to make our product and service even better and we're looking forward to continuing our push on organic products.
Looking back, do you wish you had gone into this originally?
I definitely don't think I could have done this straight out of college and had the discipline and the work ethic that was necessary for it to work. [The hedge fund] got me in a two-year routine of waking up at 5 in the morning and that alone was a lot when I started my own business … and I had some great mentors and bosses that I worked with that were also really helpful. I think that the intensity that exists in the finance world, especially in the hedge fund world, can translate into any profession.
Do you have any advice for our readers who are considering a career 180?
My advice would be find out what you're passionate about, identify who is doing that the best and try and learn from that and take that before you just plunge into doing something that might be brand new to you.
Are you happy with your switch?
I couldn't be happier, it's been an amazing ride and like I said I'm really proud of what we're doing and what we're accomplishing and the people I get to work with. It's been a lot of fun.