Sweetgreen will test fully automated restaurants next year, CEO Jonathan Neman announced on the chain’s Q3 earnings call on Tuesday. The two restaurants will be operated by Spyce technology, which the fast-casual chain acquired in 2021.
The robotic units will have a fully automated makeline, similar to the plans that Chipotle rolled out earlier this year with technology company Hyphen, and if successful could be rolled out systemwide as soon as 2024.
“These restaurants will serve our food with even better quality, perfect portioning, faster speed and will create a more consistent customer experience, all while elevating the role of our team members,” Neman said on the call.
The units at the Los Angeles-based chain will be called The Infinite Kitchen and will cut labor in half and increase order accuracy, according to Neman.
“As you can expect, machines make these things perfectly,” he said.
Sweetgreen, one of the leaders in the move to a suburban base from its previously mostly urban base, did mention the return to office and said it would be increasing the number of Outposts it has, mostly in urban spaces.
“We see real growth opportunities with Outpost and catering, as return-to-office trends upward and group gatherings increase,” said Neman.
He also noted that Sweetgreen is in the early stages of catering, piloting it in 20 stores with weekly sales tripling and average orders exceeding $500.
However, it was a 6% increase in menu prices in January that allowed the company to see a 6% increase in same-store sales for the quarter ending on September 25.
Digital revenue for the brand was 60% of total revenue, with 40% of that coming through the brand’s own app, which will be part of Sweetgreen’s new rewards program to be launched in 2023. Sweetgreen tested several loyalty programs in 2022, including Sweetpass, to much success.
Total revenue for the quarter was $124 million, an increase of 29% year-over-year, primarily due to the 47 net new restaurant openings during that time.
In the second quarter of 2022, Sweetgreen announced that it would be downsizing its support center and laying off about 5% of its corporate staff. That restructuring cost the company $11.1 million for the third quarter.