Operations

Sweetgreen tests hybrid delivery-catering model

The fast casual’s new Outpost program offers free delivery to office buildings via designated kiosks.
Photograph courtesy of Outpost

Health-focused fast casual Sweetgreen is attempting to solve a perennial headache for operators wading into off-premise: how to scale delivery to make it cost-effective.  

The 89-unit chain is testing a program called Outpost, in which designated pickup areas are set up inside large office buildings, allowing employees to place customized orders via Sweetgreen’s app and grab lunch off a shelf without leaving the building. Sweetgreen offers free delivery as part of the program, banking on the higher volume of orders for profitability.

outpost app

Company representatives declined to comment on how many Outpost orders the chain typically receives from each site each day.

Outpost is currently in about 15 locations, including 10 WeWork co-working units. The brand expects to open more than 200 Outposts by the end of next year.

“What’s exciting about Outpost is it allows us to serve customers at scale with no fee and without having to build new locations,” CEO Jonathan Neman said in a Forbes article. “This is disrupting the traditional storefront idea.”

Outpost creates a hybrid model of traditional delivery combined with catering, both areas of opportunity for operators. Catering accounted for about 11% of total foodservice revenue in 2017, according to Restaurant Business’ sister company Technomic. And the research firm predicts catering will see a 5.6% compound annual growth rate through 2019.

Sweetgreen was founded in 2007 and has expanded into urban centers, offering health-focused salads and grain bowls in an eco-friendly atmosphere. The chain has become a magnet for investors, who have raised nearly $100 million for the brand in recent years.

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