Sweetgreen, CAVA Plot Fast-Casual Future


Better-for-you fast casual is gaining.

The latest: Sweetgreen and CAVA’s stocks surged after FY23 earnings revealed YoY revenue gains of 24% and 60%, respectively. Sweetgreen projects profitability in 2024, while CAVA—which IPO’d last year—already hit the mark.

Smart kitchens. Plotting expansion, both restaurants are betting on tech to boost margins.

Following successful test sites, Sweetgreen will scale robot-run Infinite Kitchens to 10+ high-volume locations this year; CAVA is using predictive AI to optimize productivity.

Elsewhere, Chipotle is developing a rival concept and testing “cobots” alongside human cooks. Adding competition, the company’s founder Steve Ells raised $36M last summer for a fully automated plant-based concept, Kernel.

New school. For Gen Z, the ease, freshness, and price fit the bill.

Surveying 2K youth, British restaurant chain Prezzo found that 34% prefer avoiding wait staff and 86% get menu anxiety when faced with too many options or surprise tabs.

Still, they value wellness, with the majority prioritizing healthy food over other expenses.

Punchline: Automating away costs, modern fast-casual concepts aim to maintain ingredient quality at scale. Cheaper than full-service but more nutritious than fast food, they’re catching on with mindful millennial and Gen Z eaters.

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