At Sweetgreen’s newest location in Mount Vernon Square, there are no lines, no displays of julienned carrots and shredded cabbage, and no one to take your order. Instead, the salad chain’s first-ever “pickup kitchen,” opening October 26, is basically just a green-tiled box with some shelves. Order online, then come in and grab your bowl. That’s all.
The LA-based publicly traded company with Georgetown roots has certainly been moving in this direction for a while. Nearly all its 178 (and counting) locations now have pickup stations, and digital ordering accounted for 67 percent of revenue last year, according to cofounder Nic Jammet.
Jammet likes to talk about how the new model is “frictionless” for customers and employees. But it’s also easy to see the business appeal amid skyrocketing prices and labor shortages. The pickup-only location allows Sweetgreen to operate with less square-footage and fewer employees. (Or as Jammet puts it, “It’s one engine versus two engines.”) Jammet says they toyed with the model pre-pandemic, but “Covid just accelerated that a couple years from where it would have been.” Many of the locations were also forced to go pickup-only because of pandemic restrictions.
So is this the future of fast-casual? Not quite. Or at least not yet. Jammet says it’s a test, just like the pickup windows the company has been piloting in New York and Minneapolis.
“This is not meant to be a replacement of our current Sweetgreen restaurants,” Jammet says. “When we think about a city where we have opened so many different restaurants, it’s really understanding what different types of formats could serve different purposes and creating as many access points as possible.”
Sweetgreen. 601 Massachusetts Ave. NW.