I know this isn’t of interest to people outside the DC/NYC media hotspots, but I’ve been complaining for a while now about Chopt’s habit of wildly overusing the word “cobb” in their salad-naming decisions and when I got the chance to sit down with the company’s co-founder Tony Shure yesterday I asked him about this (also about other more serious things, but we’ll leave that for another time) and got an explanation.
The basic issue is that while the company obviously competes with rival salad vendors, historically at least their real competition has been on-consumption. People simply don’t want to pay nine or ten bucks for an entree salad as their meal. Or at least they think they don’t want to. Chopt’s job is to produce salads that people who order them come away happy with. And that’s why they have their menu of suggested salads and their seasonal options. Folks are free to select their own combinations, but Chopt is staffed by salad experts. Random people “don’t know salad as well as I do,” Shure told me, so they want to make sure tasty new combinations are on offer.
But how do you get people to try them? Give ‘em a familiar name. Hence there’s a Mexican Caesar and in the past there’s been a Sardinian Caesar. But at one point early on in the restaurant’s life-cycle “one in five customers was ordering the cobb salad,” a salad whose potent combination of meat, cheese, and eggs makes it the salad of choice for the salad-skeptical. So calling something the X Cobb becomes a go-to way to market different unfamiliar combinations.
Hence the current cobb-sanity. My take is that while this all makes perfect sense, the potency of the “cobb” name is likely diluted by run-amok cobb inflation. We also discussed more significant matters like public health, childhood nutrition, the Affordable Care Act, and the climate for urban entrepreneurship so more on some of that later but I had to get the cobb thing off my chest.