Fast-casual brand Sweetgreen has received $150 million in new funding for deploying emerging technologies that include the expansion of its year-old Outpost program and adding native delivery.
Specifically, the investment round, co-led by Lone Pine Capital and D1 Capital Partners, will help the Culver City, Calif.-based chain with nearly 100 units grow from 400 Outpost locations to 600 locations by end of 2019. Launched last fall, Outpost is a centralized location for free lunch deliveries. The locations are strategically placed inside regional or corporate headquarters of offices with large employee pools.
The chain said these drop-off zones — meals labeled with the customer’s name and placed on a shelving unit — are a new way to drive sales outside its traditional four walls. Outpost pick-up centers are in companies such as Vice, Refinery29, Nike, Live Nation, Headspace and MeUndies.
With more than 50% of Sweetgreen orders taking place through digital channels such as mobile orders, the company said it is also making a push to add delivery through its own app starting next year. Direct delivery is becoming a common trend among chains looking for ways for customers to order directly through their own channels, essentially side-stepping third party marketplaces which come with higher fees.
Other chains adding direct delivery through through their apps or websites include Newport Beach, Calif.-based Chipotle Mexican Grill, Applebee's, Denver-based Modern Market Eatery and New York City-based Dos Toros.
“We’re building a new type of food company and a sustainable supply chain to challenge how we think about real food, explore innovative new retail formats, and elevate the consumer experience,” Jonathan Neman, co-founder and CEO of Sweetgreen, said in a statement. “This foundation will allow us to push boundaries and broaden our impact, doing even more with our suppliers, partners, and technology so that together we can bring about industry-wide change.”
At a recent restaurant tech conference in Austin, Texas, Amy Hom, vice president of operations at Sweetgreen, and David Salzano, director of operations services, also discussed the company’s focus on using modern training methods to retain employees. Employees use tablets to train on various roles.
This so-called gamification training allows employees to earn Sweetgreen “swag as they rack up points” while learning in an engaging way, said Hom, who left Red Robin in June to move over to Sweetgreen.
Sweetgreen, founded in 2007, has about 97 locations. New locations are planned for Austin, Texas, Miami, Fla., and Denver.
The latest funding round values the brand at $1.6 billion, the company said Monday.
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