By Karen Axelton

Fast-casual restaurants are hot. Healthier, locally sourced, organic eating is hot. And affordability is hot. Put all three together and what do you get? According to Toque, fast-casual salad restaurants.

Affordably priced salad chains have been bubbling up as a concept for several years now. (Tossed, which began by touting itself as a create-your-own salad restaurant, started way back in 1998.) But until recently, none has fully taken hold.

That seems about to change. Toque reports that California, in particular, is seeing a surge in fast-casual salad restaurants. With salads priced around $10, ingredients that come from local farmers’ markets, and options for everyone from the steak lover to the vegan, these eateries appeal to the Trader Joe’s/Whole Foods type of customer for whom eating healthy and eating well are both important.

It’s not surprising that the West Coast would take to healthy greens, but one of the most successful salad chains, franchisor Freshii, got its start in NYC and now has over 50 locations. Freshii founder Matthew Corrin says success requires a demographic of “mass-affluent urbanites” (people with more money than time who eat, or want to eat, healthy). That explains the NYC appeal.

As restaurants from McDonald’s to white-tablecloth establishments expand their salad offerings, will the fast-casual salad trend sink or swim?