The fast-casual salad chain Sweetgreen had a big year this year, opening 3 new stores in New York alone, moving their headquarters to California, and being dubbed “the next Chipotle” by CNN and others. One could argue that their success is built on many things – timing, a growing demand for healthy, sustainably sourced foods, their youthful aesthetic (one of their limited edition salads last year was named in honor of a Kendrick Lamar song) – but it would be a mistake to underestimate the role mobile has had in that success. So far, 21% of Sweetgreen’s sales come through their custom app, and they expect that number to jump as high as 50% this year.
The appeal of mobile ordering is understandable: with lunchtime lines out the door, the Sweetgreen app allows guests to order from the office and pick up immediately, and once downloaded, a rewards system makes it more likely for them to keep visiting. Additional features like the ability to flag dietary restrictions, add favorites, and integrate with the iOS health app, add an additional layer of appeal.
Of course, for many small chains it simply isn’t feasible to build out this kind of ordering system. Sweetgreen has had the benefit of $95 million in total investments in recent years, and they’ve clearly dedicated a fair amount of that to building their mobile presence. But they do serve as a reminder of the kind of return such an investment can have.
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