Darden K. Coors

CEO
Salad Collective, LLC

Location: Golden, Colorado
Founded: 2004
Industry: Food & Beverage / Hospitality

*Second Year Honoree*

A wave of challenges for businesses everywhere hit in 2021, and Salad Collective LLC was no different. Severe winter storms, changing government mandates, supply chain disruptions, rebounding consumer demand, wage inflation, labor shortages and employee fatigue were all on the menu, said Darden K. Coors, Salad Collective’s CEO. In the face of all that adversity and change, though, the company had a record year.

“Battling through those was hugely rewarding and brought about the company’s best financial performance ever,” Coors said. “However, I think the greatest accomplishment of 2021 and entering 2022 is leading a shift in the vision and culture of the company from a corporate-owned, operations-driven restaurant company to one that is brand focused, systems driven and accountable to franchise owners.

“Everyone has to shift the way they think, evaluate vendors from a different perspective, and figure out how to scale what they do from 40 restaurants to 200+ or four markets to 24 markets. This kind of shift is uncomfortable, but it’s an exciting new venture for us, and I’m happy and honored to be leading my team through this transformation.”

The market conditions are favorable to begin franchising, Coors said. It will require another shift — on top of all the adjusting and change during 2021 — because his team needs to learn and work with outside consultants to prepare to reach this spot. “The vision we are working toward in 2022 is to become a franchisor of choice among franchise operators, provide opportunities for internal promotion and development and bring healthy, better-for-you food into the mainstream across North America,” Coors said. “In five years, we will have a thriving restaurant portfolio of over 100 locations, a significant pipeline for continued growth and will double our EBITDA.”

The chaos of 2021 was a driver in helping Coors become more fearless and quick in his leadership and decision-making. Coors admitted he generally likes to assess all options and be deliberate and thoughtful in reaching conclusions, but there wasn’t always time for that during the height of the pandemic. “I’ve had to trust my heart, trust my team and go for what I think is right, let go of the fear of making the wrong decision and then make the most of the decision that I made. It’s actually helped build my confidence in myself as a leader.”

Another confidence builder for Coors was being named a titan for the first time in 2021. “The greatest value may be very selfish sounding, but really it has built a confidence in me that I didn’t know I needed,” Coors said. “I have had trouble even accepting that I’m a leader, let alone a titan. I’ve always shied away from attention, accolades and all that and didn’t appreciate its substance. It has helped me feel that I have a lot more to give to others as a leader … than I thought I did.”

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"I've had to trust my heart, trust my team and go for what I think is right, let go of the fear of making the wrong decision and then make the most of the decision that I made."

Darden says: