Editor’s note: Sweetgreen opened its automated store in Naperville, Illinois, on Wednesday, according to a press release. The unit at 223 South Main Street is open from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. This article has been updated with additional details from Sweetgreen.
- Sweetgreen will open its first automated kitchen, dubbed the “Sweetgreen Infinite Kitchen,” in Naperville, Illinois, on Wednesday, co-founder and CEO Jonathan Neman said during the brand’s Q1 2023 earning call.
- A second automated makeline will open in a refurbished unit at some point in 2023.
- Neman said the Infinite Kitchen will likely become part of the chain’s development plans moving forward.
In a previous earnings call, Neman said the automated kitchen design would yield considerable labor savings.
“About half of our labor, our variable labor in the restaurant, is production or assembly. And this Infinite Kitchen takes the majority of that,” Neman said in November.
The automated kitchen the company plans to build in a refurbished unit will serve as a test for Sweetgreen’s ability to integrate the technology into retrofitted stores, Neman said on the Q1 earnings call last week. Neman shared comparatively few details on the technical elements of the Infinite Kitchen.
Customers can watch the technology make its orders, which involves evenly dispensing various ingredients into bowls and mixing salads. Team members add any final touches at a finishing station, like sprinkling herbs or adding a scoop of avocado. Customers can order at self-service kiosks, through the mobile app or directly from the restaurant's host, a newly created position inside the store. The new store format also includes a Tasting Counter as well as digital “brand storytelling screens” and exclusive merchandise.
“We believe this new concept powered by automation unlocks efficiency that will enable us to grow more quickly and have higher profit margins,” Neman said. “We expect the Infinite Kitchen will be increasingly integrated into our pipeline.”
Sweetgreen has been interested in automated kitchens since acquiring automated restaurant company Spyce in 2021. Chipotle is also working on an automated production process and will be testing an automated makeline with Hyphen in the first half of the year.
Profitability has long been an issue for Sweetgreen, which lost $33.7 million in the quarter, though that figure is an improvement on its $49.7 million loss in Q1 2022. Labor-saving tech that improves four-wall EBITDA could help the company control its costs. To bolster sales and aid customer retention, Sweetgreen deployed a tiered loyalty program in late April.