Chopt Creative Salad joins the growing number of restaurant chains building out brick-and-mortar stores completely dedicated to delivery and pickup orders. The fast-casual chain opened its first location for off-premises-only orders last week in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood.
Customers of the Chopt SoHo store can order online or via the chain’s mobile app, bypassing the need to wait in line and interact with a cashier. Delivery orders are handled by the major third-party services (Grubhub, DoorDash, etc.), while the SoHo location will also feature self-order kiosks for those walking in off the street. Those kiosks will be able to accept cash in addition to cards — an important feature in an age where the debate over cashless payments is heated and chains like McDonald’s have come under fire recently for kiosks that won’t take good old-fashioned greenbacks.
Chopt hasn’t said whether its delivery- and pickup-only store will provide a new model for future locations. CEO Nick Marsh told Forbes that, “It will be a significant part of our growth going forward, though we can’t give a percentage on how many of them will open.”
Chopt isn’t the only salad chain in NYC to be experimenting with off-premises order formats. In October, Just Salad teamed up with Grubhub to deliver a virtual restaurant brand called Health Tribes to NYC customers. Sweetgreen, who raised another $150 million in funding in September, has expanded its Outpost service, which entails placing pickup stations in office buildings. The chain also just opened its Sweetgreen 3.0 store, a so-called high-tech location that emphasizes self service and orders destined for outside the restaurant.
It all makes sense. Salad travels well — better than, say, french fries. But — and this is the understatement of the week — salad chains aren’t alone in embracing this off-premises store model designed to fulfill more delivery and pickup orders. Chick-fil-A has operated off-premises stores since 2018 and just announced it’s also working out of DoorDash’s new ghost kitchen in Northern California. Starbucks has a to-go-only store in China and one planned for NYC. Masses of other chains following this trend is pretty much a foregone conclusion.
In a place like NYC (or San Francisco, for that matter), the model allows restaurants to utilize smaller spaces and cut down on the amount of rent they pay to be in business. And as demand for delivery increases along with the expectation for online ordering and self-service technologies, this to-go concept will become a de facto part of most major chains’ strategies.