The first digital-only pickup location for Sweetgreen opened in the Washington, D.C. area on Wednesday.
The 2,190-square-foot space has no dine-in seating, and no customer-facing makeline. It is dedicated to orders through the app or online for pickup.
There is shelving for “frictionless grab-and-go” convenience, and a team member is there to facilitate. A small patio outside offers some seating and tables.
The unit opened with Sweetgreen’s fall menu, which brings back the Chicken and Brussels salad and Curry Cauliflower warm bowl, as well as some seasonal “online-exclusive” dishes, like the Sweet Balsamic Brussels, the company said in a release.
Later this year, the Los Angeles-based fast-casual chain is also expected to open its first drive-thru location in Schaumburg, Ill., which will also require customers to order ahead using the app or website.
A growing number of chains have launched digital-only formats that take dine-in seating and in-store ordering out of the equation, including Panera Bread, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Schlotszky’s and Taco Bell.
Wingstop CEO Michael Skipworth said this week in a third-quarter earnings call that the chain is working its way toward 100% digital orders. The chain opened a cash-less, seat-less prototype in Dallas earlier this year.
But Wingstop is one of few chains that has seen digital orders continue to grow, post-pandemic, even as consumers return to pre-pandemic habits of ordering in restaurants.
Locations dedicated to digital ordering and payment could also be challenged in jurisdictions that require restaurants to accept cash.
It remains to be seen how much demand there will be for digital-only locations as brands find the right balance between in-store and off premise sales.
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