Sweetgreen really wants you to get back to the office

The fast-casual salad chain revealed it has about 500 Outpost office drop-off locations, but it’s hoping to grow that business to boost its sales.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Sweetgreen really wants you to get back in the office.

The fast-casual salad chain’s stock price closed up more than 25% Friday on solid results from its first earnings report as a public company. But Sweetgreen is counting on the growth of its Outpost office drop-off program and a return to work in big cities to continue its growth plans.

Sweetgreen started testing its Outpost program in 2018, as it sought a way to scale delivery to make it cost-effective. Under Outpost, office buildings become home to designated Sweetgreen pickup areas, allowing employees to place customized orders as part of a larger group.

In a discussion with analysts Friday, 156-unit Sweetgreen revealed it now has 500 Outpost locations, with 17 more launching just next week. And those pickup points are performing well, apparently.

“We’ve actually been pleasantly pleased with Outpost for us,” CFO Mitch Reback said. “What’s interesting about Outpost, it’s a bit of a leading indicator on return to office.”

The company, which went public in November, said it’s seeing record revenue from its Outpost channel and that it’s performing above expectations.

“It’s still very early in the world in offices coming back, which is the primary use case for Outpost,” Reback said.

Sweetgreen does not break down its sales on urban versus suburban locations.

For the quarter ended Dec. 26, the chain reported total revenue of $96.4 million, up 63% from the prior year. Same-store sales increased 36%.

Sweetgreen opened 31 restaurants in 2021, 13 urban locations and 18 suburban ones.

But CEO Jonathan Neman told investors that during the fourth quarter, the fastest-growing segment of the business came from urban restaurants, specifically those in Midtown Manhattan.

“The urban stores, certainly, if you compare them to 2019, we would say are fully recovered to those levels that we saw in 2019,” Neman said.

So far, about 33% of office workers have returned to their cubicles as of early last month, according to building card-swipe data from 10 major cities from Kastle Systems.

“We’re not expecting that to come anywhere near 100%, but for us, it doesn’t need to,” Reback said. “So, we feel really good about where we sit today … It gives us pretty good line of sight and confidence that the urban recovery we need is there for us.”

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