by ann donnelly
Salty Buns is a new quick service restaurant in the food court of Wilton Mall that offers a range of sandwiches and hot dogs on pretzel buns.
Owners Jon Locke and Alison Packer had always wanted to open a restaurant and sought a unique idea.
“When restaurants have limited availability specials on pretzel buns, they are so popular. We love pretzels, and we love restaurants, so we came up with the idea for this restaurant,” said Locke.
The business opened at the beginning of June, and the owners are delighted at the success they have seen early on.
“Each week, sales have risen. From 800-900 customers in the first week to approximately 2,000 customers in the third week,” said Locke. “The word has spread, mainly on Facebook, and we have had customers that traveled from as far as Connecticut.”
Before deciding to locate in the mall, Locke and Packer had in-depth discussions with the owners and management and decided it would be the best location for them to get started.
“They outlined their plan for the future and painted a clear picture that now is the time to set up here,” said Locke. “Name brand stores, Planet Fitness, the DMV, and Glens Falls Hospital draw people in. I stand here every day, and I see the mall coming back to life with many young people, in their teens and 20s, spending time here. Now many are coming just for Salty Buns.”
The original plan for the business assumed that 90 percent of orders would be for delivery, but in the first month, only about 5 percent of orders are through Door Dash or Grub Hub.
The owners had a unique way of testing what products to offer.
“We used our fellow church members as guinea pigs, testing different items. We knew we could count on them for honest feedback,” he said.
Since opening, the most popular items are beef brisket and pulled pork sandwiches, followed closely by hot dogs. They have sold so many hot dogs that they have had issues with the supply of buns. “In the time that most restaurants go through a case of buns, we have gone through twenty cases.” Another popular item is the “50/50 mix” which is half french fries and half onion rings.
“Half of the people can’t decide so we offer that option and don’t charge additional. Our pricing is competitive. We want to give guests the opportunity to see that the price of food doesn’t have to impact them. We’d rather serve more people to make more money than to charge more,” Locke said.
Both owners had previous careers where service is important. Packer was a nurse, while Locke was in the Army and spent decades in the restaurant business.
Locke said he learned a very important lesson from Robert “Bobby” Mitchell, who he worked for at Wheatfields, “Every single person is our guest. We treat each person like they are coming into our home. Give them a reason to remember us and talk about us.”
Locke and Packer are looking forward to continued success throughout the summer and have plans to open at least two additional locations within two years and perhaps offer franchise opportunities to others that want to own their own Salty Buns restaurant.
“We are so grateful to the support of the Wilton Mall, the community, and all that have come in.”
Find out more about Salty Buns and order online at ordersaltybuns.com.