Sweetgreen Launches Restaurant With Robotic, Fully Automated Kitchen
The salad chain believes the automation concept will unlock efficiency, enabling it to scale quicker with higher profit margins
Sweetgreen has opened its first location powered by technology, which features a fully automated production line.
The first tech-forward Sweetgreen can be found in Naperville, IL as the company pilots its new approach to fresh and fast. Sweetgreen says that, as automation becomes increasingly prevalent, it wants its salad chain locations to become an “early adopter” in the restaurant and dining space.
After acquiring Spyce, a Boston-based kitchen robotics startup in 2021, the health-focused food chain spent the following year and a half refining and adapting its technology to test alongside Sweetgreen diners and employees.
The salad chain says the new dining tech format allows for a quicker pace, precise portioning and increased accuracy. From the start with its acquisition of Spyce, the salad chain indicated that it wasn’t looking to replace staff with the dining technology, but allow Sweetgreen team members to focus instead on fresh prep and what it calls “intimate hospitality” with diners.
On Sweetgreen’s most recent earnings call with investors, Jonathan Neman, co-founder and CEO, touched upon the chain’s introduction of its automated production line, which it calls the “Sweetgreen Infinite Kitchen.”
Neman revealed that the first Infinite Kitchen would find a home in Illinois, and a second would be retrofitted from an existing restaurant, so Sweetgreen could learn how to integrate the automated kitchen concept into an existing site.
“From these pilots, we hope to learn how we can create a more consistent customer experience faster throughout and make our team members’ jobs easier and more dynamic,” said Neman on the call.
He added that he believes the new automation concept will unlock efficiency, enabling Sweetgreen to scale quickly with higher profit margins.
“While we’re still testing and learning, we expect the Infinite Kitchen will be increasingly integrated into our pipeline,” he said.
Sweetgreen is aiming to achieve profitability for the first time in 2024. In Q1 of 2023, the salad chain reported a net loss of $33.7 million, less than the $49.7 million loss it posted in the prior-year period, and posted a revenue of $125.1 million for the quarter, up 22% from $102.6 million in the period-year period.
The healthy food chain, founded by a trio of business graduates of Georgetown University in 2007, hit a snag last summer, and Sweetgreen laid off approximately five percent of its staff.
At Sweetgreen’s pilot location in Naperville, guests will be greeted by a new host position that provides a more personalized connection between team members and guests.
Sweetgreen customers can opt to use self-service kiosks, the mobile app or order directly with the host. Guests can also watch the automated tech prepare their orders with team members adding the “final touches” at the finishing station. There is also a new Tasting Counter, digital storytelling screens and an updated merchandising strategy at every touchpoint so guests can get exclusive Sweetgreen merch.
The salad chain has also collaborated with a local impact partner with its Naperville launch for its grand opening, donating meals to Loaves & Fishes, an anti-poverty hunger relief agency.
Earlier this month, Sweetgreen launched a monthly subscription program for fans of its salads and health bowls.
Feature image credit: Sweetgreen
Courtney Rehfeldt has worked in the broadcasting media industry since 2007 and has freelanced since 2012. Her work has been featured in Age of Awareness, Times Beacon Record, The New York Times, and she has an upcoming piece in Slate. She studied yoga & meditation under Beryl Bender Birch at The Hard & The Soft Yoga Institute. She enjoys hiking, being outdoors, and is an avid reader. Courtney has a BA in Media & Communications studies.