Eating your veggies should be easy—and delicious. That’s the premise behind Sweetgreen, the quick-service restaurant chain best known for offering a cornucopia of locally sourced choices along its open-kitchen assembly line.
In January 2016, Sweetgreen unveiled an image-driven ordering app that lets users both customize orders and count calories. The display features 60 different ingredients and is compatible with the Apple Health app. An impressive 30% of customers now place in-app or online orders and can pick them up in designated zones, clearing out store congestion. After successfully piloting the idea, the company also announced that its stores will be fully cash-free in 2017. That means employees can spend less time at the register and more time fulfilling orders. (Under this model, Sweetgreen has seen its lines move 15% faster in some locations.)
By focusing both on taste and transactional efficiency, Sweetgreen has attracted $135 million in venture capital from investors, including AOL’s Steve Case, seeding the D.C.-grown company’s moves into trend-setting markets like San Francisco and Chicago. It now operates more than 60 stores in eight markets, with unspecified plans for more national expansion. Sweetgreen’s success may taste even better as it tries out new recipes at The Lab, a customer-facing test kitchen that opened inside a Culver City, California store in December 2016. The chain is also working to create a new biodegradable (and prep-time cutting) to-go packaging designed by Yves Behar, who is also an investor. Expect Sweetgreen to offer more flavorful recipes even faster.