John Bornoty was in New York City some years ago, eating a sandwich in a delicatessen in Manhattan. This is the beginning of The Big Salad story.

While he was eating, Bornoty noticed a small salad bar in the corner of the room where customers, looking for a healthier alternative to a mile-high pastrami on rye, could “build” their own salads. The salad bar was busy.

But the drawback to virtually every salad bar in the country is that the lettuce is not always fresh, the toppings limited, and, moreover, patrons all handle the same utensils, all awkwardly reaching beneath a glass or clear plastic panel. The ingredients are typically not replenished until empty, so the ingredients are usually warm and wilted.

Original “Big Salad” in Grosse Pointe Woods, MI

Bornoty had an idea: to create a specialty salad restaurant, where salads are made for you, not by you, but to your exact specifications. A salad restaurant where the number of fresh toppings seems limitless and where the lettuce is continuously kept crisp and cold. And the salad ingredients are not handled by the masses, but by one associate who is dedicated to making you the best salad possible.

And to finish off the concept, Bornoty wanted to create an environment that did not say “fast food” but “good food.” This meant real granite counters, real wood accents and real wooden chairs, not plastic.

Bornoty opened the first The Big Salad in 2008 in Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan, an upscale suburb of Detroit. It became an instant oasis for diners seeking fresh food at fast food prices.

“Of course I was pleased that The Big Salad concept was a success,” says Bornoty. “But I also discovered that I was meant to do this. I’ve always enjoyed meeting and working with people,” he adds. “If you don’t like people, don’t get into the restaurant business! Delicious, fresh food is only one element to an enjoyable dining experience. Customers want to feel welcomed and relaxed. As often as I am able, I want to say hello to each customer, to make sure that they love the food and are enjoying the experience.”

John Bornoty, founder of The Big Salad

“The Big Salad was born with an understanding that we have no interest in serving average food quickly, but rather by providing the freshest product possible, with great customer service, in an enjoyable, comfortable and impeccably clean atmosphere,” explains Bornoty.

The Big Salad offers eleven signature entree salads that are all made to order. For those customers wishing to ‘build their own’ salad, The Big Salad offers over 28 vegetable topping choices, over 30 dressings, over eight meat and seafood topping choices and over eight dry topping choices. In addition, The Big Salad offers over 16 varieties of delicious soups and five healthy and unique sandwiches.

Having proved the concept with the original Grosse Pointe restaurant, Bornoty opened a second company-owned restaurant in Troy, Michigan in 2010 and has been new opening locations at a manageable rate ever since.

“The trend in the restaurant industry is clearly toward offering fresher, more healthful choices,” explains Bornoty. “In this regard, The Big Salad is perfectly positioned.”