Last week, I finally made it to the mecca of fast casual automation– Sweetgreen’s new suburban Naperville, Illinois store, equipped with its latest Infinite Kitchen automation born out of its fall 2021 acquisition of Spyce. Despite its robotic nature, the concept doubles down on hospitality, with dedicated staff greeting customers with a warm “welcome in,” in Japanese “irasshaimase” style. The store finally launched three weeks ago after about four years in development. In 2019, Sweetgreen hired former L2F co-founder Derek Pietz to head up its own internal automation project before it decided to acquire Spyce. L2F is a foodservice automation firm that is now owned by publicly-traded Middleby Corporation. Amidst rising food and labor costs, automation has become a hot topic within the fast casual and QSR spaces as brands like Chipotle, White Castle, and Steve Ells’ recently announced Kernel look to double down on robotics. Whereas the first wave of automated cafés and restaurants like Eatsa, Cafe-X, and Creator sought to use robotics as a hook to draw in traffic, Sweetgreen strikes a balance that seeks to normalize automation to ultimately enhance the experience while driving down costs.
@hngrytv Inside @sweetgreen ♬ Techno 2021