Operations

Sweetgreen expands menu to include more dinner-worthy plates

Three new hearty plates are making their debut with some new ingredients designed to build sales later in the day, when a salad might not be enough.
Sweetgreen plates
Three new plates, ranging in price from about $14 to $16, feature a protein at the center of the plate and no lettuce. | Photo courtesy of Sweetgreen.

Sweetgreen is upping its dinner game.

The fast-casual chain on Tuesday is rolling out three new dinner-worthy plates designed to capture diners seeking heartier options, and those who may not have tried the brand because they think it’s for salad eaters.

The three plates will be part of a new entrée category available all hours in addition to salads, warm bowls and sides. These plates have no lettuce, and they include several new ingredients for Sweetgreen, including salmon, a white basmati rice that has been tested in the Los Angeles area, and some new sauces and seasonings.

And though the plates, served in the signature hexagon-shaped containers, are offered in a traditional center-of-the-plate protein/grain/veg/sauce format, the dishes are as customizable as the rest of the menu, so guests can get creative with combinations, swapping out sides, toppings or sauces, for example, or doubling the amount of protein.

The three new plates include:

Sweetgreen salmon

The new Miso Glazed Salmon plate. |Photo courtesy of Sweetgreen.

  • Miso Glazed Salmon: Described as a deconstructed sushi roll, this dish includes Atlantic salmon—which is a first for the brand—glazed with a touch of miso. It’s served with white basmati rice sprinkled with nori seasoning, a half an avocado topped with crispy onions, chunks of cucumber and pickled onions. It’s served with a Spicy Cashew Sauce.

Southwest Chicken Sweetgreen

The Southwest Fajita Plate drizzled with crema. |Photo courtesy of Sweetgreen.

  • Southwest Fajita Plate: Made with new balsamic-marinated herb-roasted chicken thighs with a balsamic marinade, this dish evokes a fajita plate with sliced red pepper and onion, shredded cabbage, black beans and the same basmati rice, though this time topped with a sprinkle of umami seasoning. The dish is also drizzled with crema and served with Sweetgreen’s existing Lime Cilantro Jalapeno vinaigrette.

Hot Honey plate sweetgreen

The new-and-improved Hot Honey Plate. |Photo courtesy of Sweetgreen.

  • Hot Honey Chicken Plate: Sweetgreen’s Hot Honey Chicken has been on the menu since 2020 and has been a fan favorite. This is a revamp tapping the same Hot Honey Mustard Sauce.

The updated version uses the same herb-roasted chicken thighs as in the Southwest Fajita Plate, but with a double serving of herbed quinoa, chunks of warm, roasted sweet potatoes and a somewhat indulgent creamy veggie slaw topped with crispy onions.

The recommended prices for the three dishes range from $14 to $16, with the salmon at the higher end.

There is an opportunity to capture more sales during the dinner daypart, said Nicolas Jammet, Sweetgreen co-founder and chief concept officer. Currently, about 35% of the chain’s sales come after 4 p.m., though that varies by location. At some urban units, for example, it can be much lower, he said.

That presented an opportunity for the brand, which has been playing with variations on non-salad plates since the pandemic, Jammet said. The Hot Honey Chicken, for example, was a breakout dish from those experiments.

In the spring, Sweetgreen debuted a limited-time offering that was the first bowl to have zero lettuce, and appeared to take a poke at a fast-casual rival. The menu item was originally called the Chipotle Chicken Burrito Bowl, a move that caused Chipotle Mexican Grill to file a lawsuit.The trademark challenge was dropped after Sweetgreen agreed to change the dish’s name.

But the bowl was a hit and the chain’s culinary team felt they could do more with heartier options and bolder flavors that still captured the brand ethos of healthful, fresh ingredients prepared mostly in restaurants.

Last year, Sweetgreen found that about 75% of participants in a pilot test said they would increase their frequency at dinner if there were more options other than salads or warm bowls.

Jammet said rising menu prices across the industry have also created more demand for value at dinner. And though Sweetgreen, with its $15 salads, could be seen as a pricy option for lunch, consumer are willing to spend a bit more during the later daypart.

Dinner also offers more opportunity for attachments, and Jammet said Sweetgreen’s existing rosemary focaccia would be an ideal pairing. The company has also said more desserts are coming to the menu following the debut of the Crispy Rice Treat last year.

The three new plates have up to 50 grams of protein per serving. A knife and fork is needed for the chicken, for example, which is served in larger pieces, rather than cut into chunks, as in the salads.

Sweetgreen plates

The Hot Honey Chicken and the Miso Salmon plates, as seen in Sweetgreen's real-life test kitchen. | Photo by Lisa Jennings

The salmon filet will also replace the steelhead river trout Sweetgreen had used for its fish taco bowl previously, which customers never fully embraced. The new dish includes about 4 ounces of fish, versus the 3.25 ounces of trout used.

This is the first big menu move under the new head of culinary Chad Brauze, who joined the chain about six weeks ago. Brauze worked previous at Burger King and Chipotle, and earlier in his career was in fine dining working with chefs that include Daniel Boulud in New York and Thomas Keller in California.

Brauze described Sweetgreen as "fine dining at massive scale," saying he was excited to work on "fast food that you could feel good about."

In addition to the new plates, two limited-time salads that rolled out this summer will be added to the permanent menu: the Italian Chopped Salad and the BBQ Chicken Salad. In addition, the Elote Bowl that was introduced earlier this year will now be available online.

Earlier this year, Sweetgreen CEO Jonathan Neman hinted of potential center-of-the-plate proteins to come, including turkey meatballs, and even steak has been considered.

Jammet said fundamentally the goal is to broaden the menu to meet the needs of a broader range of customers.

“People that maybe don’t consider themselves salad eaters or who wouldn’t consider Sweetgreen, we’re excited for them to come in our doors and eat something,” he said. “For us, the broader our food, the greater our ability to connect people to our ethos.”

 

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