What Grocerants Can Learn From Sweetgreen

The Lempert Report
May 15, 2018

Salad chains are popping up all across the U.S. but Sweetgreens is noteworthy.

Banners like Chopt, Fresh & Co., Salata, Just Salad, Dig Inn, and the Danny Meyer-backed Tender Greens are winning over consumers and grocerants have an opportunity to go far beyond the traditional self-service salad bar. Today, having raised over $100 million and with 87 restaurants, Sweetgreens is the one to emulate. Especially as they revamp their menu offerings and up the game.  

According to a report in Bloomberg, each ingredient change represents intensive research. According to the company, “it took us six months of testing lentils to get where we wanted to be on the avocado dish. We played with a variety of them to get where we are now.” It's the way they are testing these new dishes that is notable.  

The founders told Bloomberg that the most powerful tool Sweetgreen has is its tech-driven mentality: “We’ve been building for this digital revolution in food. We’re as invested in our tech team as we are in our supply chain team,” says Nicolas Jammet c-founder and co-ceo. 

Co-founder and co-ceo Jonathan Newman adds: “We were the first to use blockchain as an application for food. We were one of the first in the category to release an app [in 2013]. We designed this new menu for flavor, and the analytics from our app allows us to find out what people are craving.”  

According to Newman, the company’s online ordering revenue is increasing at a rate of 80 percent year-over-year. 

“By the end of 2018, we will have over 1 million people on our digital platform, and over 50 percent of orders will be processed through our app or online platforms,” he says. The company went cashless in 2017. At some locations in New York, customers don’t ever have to interact with a human; their food is waiting on a shelf to grab-n-go according to the honor system. 

The app has powered Sweetgreen’s research. “It’s the main way we understand ingredient popularity, capture feedback, and get smarter with the seasonal products we offer. It also lets us test-drive certain ingredients and see what people are ordering over and over again, as well as not coming back for,” says Newman.