Where Is Salted From Shark Tank Today?

One of the biggest restaurant trends of the late 2010s was the emergence of ghost kitchens. These are not haunted restaurants, of course, but rather businesses that prepare food specifically for online orders. As explained by Forbes, there are actually several types of ghost kitchens, also called "virtual kitchens." When the pandemic hit, many traditional restaurants closed their dining rooms yet kept the kitchens open to handle pickup and delivery orders; that's the most basic form of the ghost kitchen. However, the more ghostly ones have no dining rooms whatsoever and may license out their fully managed end-to-end operations to popular brands. Technically, this category can also include things like commissaries and food halls if they use hub-and-spoke models or are primarily dedicated to pickup.

Staying ahead of the curve, one entrepreneur saw great potential in this growing category of kitchens and went on "Shark Tank" pre-pandemic to pitch Salted, a venture dedicated to building up modern restaurant brands (via LinkedIn). Jeffrey Appelbaum had previously founded and worked at a couple of new-media companies, so at least on paper, he had the expertise necessary to make Salted work. Was that enough for the Sharks to bite?

Two Sharks were on the fence

Investors often buy into the entrepreneur as much as (if not more than) the idea itself. For better or worse, that seemed to be the situation Appelbaum found himself in when he appeared on "Shark Tank" (via Hulu). Carrying in a comically tall stack of pizza boxes, the entrepreneur pitched his concept. Salted is a family of food brands that uses a data-driven model to promote healthy, quality food, which is prepared in ghost kitchens for delivery and pickup. These brands include the $5 Salad Co., Califlower Pizza, Lulubowls (gluten-free Hawaiian food), Moonbowls (plant-heavy Korean dishes), and Thrive Kitchen (post-workout meals). Grouping them together in cutting-edge kitchens with proprietary software, Salted aims to scale these brands up while avoiding the overhead costs of dine-in food service. Appelbaum was so confident in his multi-channel approach, he asked for $500,000 in exchange for 5% of his company.

The Sharks seemed impressed and charmed, at first. Yet, Barbara Corcoran, Kevin O'Leary, and Mark Cuban were skeptical that Salted could acquire customers and effectively turn a profit. Lori Greiner and Guest Shark Rohan Oza were intrigued, though. Oza explained he was torn between liking Appelbaum and being scared off by his fast-talking energy, ultimately deciding he was too nervous to invest. Greiner admitted she would have invested, but Appelbaum had been ignoring her, talking over her as she repeatedly tried to ask him questions. She was out. O'Leary capped things off, explaining that Appelbaum himself had been uninvestable.

Did the Sharks miss out?

Appelbaum kept his chin up. He thanked the Sharks, then told the cameras he was looking forward to unpacking the experience in therapy (via Hulu). Soon after, lockdowns put everybody into quarantine, and the food delivery sector flourished. Salted evidently survived (if not thrived) during those turbulent times, and the company is still live in major cities like Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia, with 80 locations as of 2023. So, did the Sharks miss out?

Other investors certainly seem to think so. In 2021, QSR Magazine reported that Salted had secured $9 million in seed financing. "There is no doubt that this is how the next billion-dollar quick service leader will be born," one investor claimed. "Salted created the playbook and now they are scaling rapidly nationwide as the leader."

Later in 2021, TechCrunch reported that Salted had raised $16 million more in funding to help it spread across the country. "We don't consider ourselves a ghost kitchen," Appelbaum informed TechCrunch, "but a builder of budding brands that are going to be around for a hundred years. The great value is going to be in the brand layers."

We can't blame Greiner for passing if the editing was accurate and Appelbaum really did ignore her. For the rest of the Sharks, though, perhaps they were wrong to count him off because of his high energy. After all, money talks and all these investments are suggesting Salted is worth getting overly excited about.