Sweetgreen Opens Automated Restaurant in Illinois


sweetgreen is scaling up with the help of salad-making robots.

What’s happening: The salad chain debuted an automated restaurant concept called sweetgreen Infinite Kitchen in Naperville, Illinois.

Using technology from its 2021 acquisition of robotics company Spyce, the robotic assembly line effectively replaces half of sweetgreen’s labor expenses, capable of precisely portioning a custom order in less than five minutes.

The store—SG’s 200th unit—will retain human staff to assist with orders, add finishing touches to salads, and operate a “Tasting Counter.”

Between the lines: Infinite Kitchen is about enhancing the customer experience as much as it is about boosting sweetgreen’s profit margins, CEO Jonathan Neman said in a post:

“It will create a simpler and more dynamic experience for our team and better unit economics allowing us to connect more people to real food.”

Of note, sweetgreen reported a net loss of $33.7M in Q1, a modest improvement from the $47–49M hit of the previous two quarters.

Sweet & Sour

sweetgreen has been slow to recover since the pandemic, but not for lack of trying.

  • November 2022: Opened sweetlane, its first drive-thru store, in the Chicago suburbs
  • March 2023: Signed as an exclusive partner with wellness credit card Ness, rewarding a free salad with every fifth purchase
  • April 2023: Added a salad-free Chipotle Chicken Burrito Bowl to the menu, renaming it to Chicken + Chipotle Pepper Bowl after litigation from rival Chipotle
  • Three weeks ago: Relaunched loyalty program Sweetpass as two-tiered membership (including a gamified paid level) and debuted a lifestyle merchandise shop

Looking ahead: Neman suggested a second automated makeline would be piloted during 2023, and both Infinite Kitchen and sweetlane will be part of development moving forward. There’s no doubt sweetgreen’s tech signals the future of quick-serve, but how fast it scales will be dictated by the balance sheet.

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