Sweetgreen readies the robots
The restaurant that billed itself as a tech company hopes even more tech will save it
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It hasn’t been a great year for Sweetgreen. After hitting the public market almost exactly a year ago, the company has taken more than a few hits. Sales are down, and the company has had to lower its forecasts. Over the summer, it laid off 5 percent of support staff and moved offices in an effort to save money. Earlier this week, Sweetgreen lowered its revenue forecast again.
In a statement issued with Sweetgreen’s latest numbers, CEO Jonathan Neman said, “Sweetgreen is in the early stages of building a national brand that leads and defines a category and we are excited about our expansion plans in 2023.”
Those plans include launching not one but two fully robotic restaurants next year, according to Neman. At those restaurants, dubbed “infinite kitchen” locations, the “make line” — that is, the line that prepares your salad — will be fully automated. A salad made by robots.
Sweetgreen didn’t build its salad tech alone; it acquired a Boston-based company called Spyce last year. Spyce was once its own robotic salad restaurant, tapping big-name culinary talent: Daniel Boulud helped to develop its menu and chefs Thomas Keller, Gavin Kaysen, and Jerome Bocuse invested. (After some early press, Spyce seemed to downplay any chef involvement; I don’t have updated info, unfortunately.)
The acquisition was billed as a way for Sweetgreen to scale quickly while keeping costs in check; per Neman, they’re also meant to improve quality and consistency. Oh, and they’ll cut the need for labor in half.
“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,” he said on a Tuesday call with investors and analysts.
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