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SumoSalad CEO on Westfield rent saga

Image: SumoSalad’s new Melbourne Airport store.

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SumoSalad co-founder and CEO Luke Baylis made headlines when the news broke a month ago that he had placed two of the 20 companies in his group into voluntary administration in a bid to negotiate a rent cut with Westfield operator Scentre Group.

And now, the bold move appears to have paid off.

“We are still working with our landlord partners at the moment and we’ve been in some very constructive discussions, but haven’t finalised anything as yet,” Baylis told Retailbiz.

“We’re still working through the situation but we should be making a very positive statement within the next few weeks.”

Baylis said putting the companies in administration was “out of necessity to be taken seriously about the impact that has occurred through cannibalisation”.

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This cannibalisation has come about as landlords continue to add more food outlets into shopping centres, drastically increasing competition for shoppers’ dollars.

“We are being heard, we are being taken seriously, so from that standpoint [the strategy] has triggered a much more considered response from landlords,” said Baylis.

Future-proofing the business

In order to future-proof the business against the traditionally high cost food court model, Baylis said he is focused on diversifying the locations the chain operates in.

SumoSalad has just opened a new store at Melbourne Airport T2, following the successful opening of a similar store at the Sydney International Airport.

“We are not moving away from traditional retail locations, we are expanding our portfolio into different types of locations…particularly where there are limited options and choices.

“Because airports cater to such a mass market, they are the perfect trade environment for us.”

SumoSalad also has locations in hospitals, and Baylis said the company is looking at everything from automated stores to shops in office buildings and train stations—anywhere healthy food is needed.

SumoSalad

SumoSalad Melbourne Airport.

“Ultimately if our objective as a business is to democratise healthy fast food, we need to find viable ways in which to expand and achieve this,” he explained.

“We’re still going to be maintaining a large presence within food courts but a lot of new store growth we’re undertaking will be in different trade environments.”

The chain has also partnered with Caltex Australia on ‘The Foodary’ convenience concept, with SumoSalad operating as a store-within-a-store offering consumers a healthy on-the-go option. You can also find SumoSalad on Jetstar flights.

“Ultimately we want to make it easier for our customers to consume healthier, nutritious foods,” explained Baylis.

“Our future business in that broad context is about digital, educational, retail, partnerships—there are many opportunities available which we are currently exploring.”

This includes beta testing direct to consumer delivery. “We see a great future in that as eating habits change and more people consume takeaway in a more convenient fashion.

“We believe that intersection of trends is going to push consumption of delivery food up.”

 

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