Sweetgreen joins the ranks of restaurants reformatting their store concepts to accommodate more off-premises operations. The fast-casual chain announced today it will open its first “drive-in” restaurant, the company’s own take on the drive-thru format.
According to sweetgreen materials sent to The Spoon, the new store, set to open in 2021 in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, will focus on digital orders placed via the sweetgreen app. Off-premises formats will include a traditional drive-thru lane “for optimized digital pickup” as well as a drive-in area where customers can park and are attended by a dedicated “concierge.”
Based on the information sweetgreen provided, the new store format looks to be all about keeping customers in their cars. The company said the Highlands Ranch location “allows guests to access sweetgreen without ever having to leave their vehicle,” and that it provides a glimpse of what’s happening in the kitchen without requiring customers to ever enter the store. Large windows will look into the restaurant’s food prep space so customers can watch as the staff prepares orders. The company did not explicitly say whether there is any indoor dining attached to this location, though there does not appear to be based on the information sweetgreen provided. A small patio will provide some outdoor seating.
The pandemic has accelerated moves by fast-casual and QSR restaurants to revamp their store formats to cater to more to-go and delivery orders. McDonald’s, Burger King, El Pollo Loco, and Chipotle are just a few of the major names on the list. But sweetgreen said the plan to evolve its physical store format was in motion before COVID-19, citing the chain’s digital growth (more than 50 percent of orders are placed digitally) as the big driver.
Sweetgreen said it is already looking to expand this format to other parts of the country once the Highlands Ranch location is open. That includes expansion to new suburban areas of the U.S. in addition to the urban centers where the brand is best known.