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Arugula To Go: Sweetgreen Will Open Its First Drive-Thru Next Year

The healthy-food chain hopes to appeal to the suburban crowd.


The first-ever Sweetgreen drive-thru restaurant will open early next year in Highlands Ranch, Colorado.


The chain, known for its warm grain bowls and $12 salads, announced that the pilot restaurant will be supported by "tech-enabled ordering and innovative design." There will be a standard drive-thru lane, a drive-in area where you can order in your car (like Sonic), and a dedicated lane for in-app ordering.

Sweetgreen's decision is part of an overall trend of quick-service restaurants (QSRs) adapting to the Covid and post-Covid world. With so many offices closed and less in-store dining available, QSRs need new ways to entice the lunch crowd to eat at their stores. 

Sweetgreen also wants to appeal to the suburban crowd. The chain, which launched in Washington, D.C. in 2007, started as an urban lunch hub for millennials looking for a little healthy and convenient grub. But now it's expanding to the burbs, where people drive cars — not scooters — to get around. And suburbanites just love their drive-ins. Drive-thru orders grew by 24 percent across the restaurant industry in October, according to The NPD Group.

Related: Sweetgreen Success: From Dorm Room Startup to Fast-Casual Salad Empire

Disappearing salads

Sweetgreen is also hoping to cash in on another QSR trend — the disappearing salad. During the pandemic, restaurants such as McDonald's, Taco Bell, and Subway had to cut down their menu items to make service smooth. The first casualty has been items like salads, which can slow down the kitchen. Enter Sweetgreen, which makes fast salads an assembly line science. 

The drive-thru model shouldn't be much of a stretch for Sweetgreen customers. They already make 50 percent of their orders through the app. Instead of driving up and asking for fries and a shake, they'll ask for a pesto sweet potatoes and a hibiscus iced tea. 

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