Using technology to “enhance the human experience, not replace it,” is one of the recurring themes for Cava, says Brett Schulman, CEO of the fast-casual Mediterranean brand that has raised more than $130 million in funding since its founding in 2011. As such, don’t expect to see robots at Cava anytime soon: “Food is a shared human experience,” Schulman says. “We want to create a great humanistic experience.” However, the high-tech chain does have a growing network of sensors to enhance food safety on delivery trucks and in its kitchens, a video learning system for onboarding new employees and a deepening understanding of how to turn the massive amounts of data the company gathers into actionable insights.
The chain also uses tech to enhance the guest experience, both in-store and off-premise. Cava plans to roll out a new digital ordering loyalty platform early next year, Schulman says. “It will be more personalized to each guest,” he says, from tailored marketing messages to rewards and a mobile-payment solution. The chain is also testing delivery, both with in-house and third-party drivers. “We want to wade into this slowly,” Schulman says. “This is a very long-term business initiative.”
Cava, which recently expanded to San Diego, is also growing its brand through a retail partnership with Whole Foods. The chain is expanding its product line of dressings and sauces, as well as the number of stores in which they are available. “It’s just another great revenue driver,” he says. “A great brand expression. [Consumers] can have Cava be a part of their home, not just a place they grab lunch.”