- Sweetgreen is opening a new bi-level restaurant that features self-order kiosks and a back-of-house assembly line in New York City this fall, according to Restaurant Business.
- The digital kiosks will allow customers to customize their meals and to refer to previous orders. Concierges will also be available to take orders, equipped with iPads.
- Sweetgreen is aiming to turn the waiting time into an experience, by offering samples of drinks, salad ingredients or new dressings while guests' orders are being prepared.
This new store's design, dubbed Sweetgreen 3.0, an interesting move for Sweetgreen, which has built its reputation as being a farm-to-table, rustic and authentic restaurant. It's swapping Sweetgreen's famous chalkboard menu for a giant digital screen, for example. This may be off-putting to some diners who choose Sweetgreen digital-free oasis in an increasingly digitized world.
Some people may salivate at the sight of the luxurious spread of farm-fresh vegetables behind the glass assembly line and enjoy an opportunity to see what looks good before making an order, especially considering that many consumers eat with their eyes before they eat with their mouths. But the assembly line format can cause some guests stress, according to Restaurant Business, as the abundance of options make it difficult to pick and choose. Most people end up ordering nearly the same thing each time they visit the restaurant, Sweetgreen Director of Culinary Michal Stebner told Restaurant Business.
Moving the assembly line to the back-of-house will also enable Sweetgreen to do more made-to-order items, Stebner said. The chain also has plans to branch out from its bowl format to other dinner-oriented items packed with vegetables. This may draw new diners through Sweetgreen's doors, but long-standing fans could be frustrated if it decides to scrap other items to support the menu change.
Offering samples while guests wait could be enough to placate anyone who finds the new store's format jarring, while also encouraging guests to come back to try something that they liked,such as a new dressing or beverage. But this also requires more labor for Sweetgreen.
Self-service kiosks are becoming more common in QSRs, namely at Taco Bell, McDonald's and Subway, as retailers try to cut wait times and to offer different channels for placing orders and most consumers seem OK with the concept of placing their order through a computer. There are benefits to digital kiosks when it comes to collecting data about customer trends and preferences as well. Sweetgreen may find through this new format that it's been spending too much on certain salad ingredients that aren't as popular as it previously thought.
But there could be some challenges, primarily when it comes to how well older demographics and less tech-savvy consumers will feel about having to place their order digitally. Sweetgreen's decision to station a few concierge order-takers in the new restaurant is likely aimed at easing these fears, but this again adds another labor demand. The concierge may not have many people placing orders through the iPad, meaning employees will be getting paid to stand around idle.
Correction: This article has been updated to clarify how many stores will have Sweetgreen's new format. Only the 3.0 store opening in New York City this year will feature the new design.