Cava this week launched a redesigned app, two years in the making, that tries to replicate the in-restaurant experience on a mobile device.
The fast casual’s new app development was shaped by changing consumer needs during the pandemic, Cava CEO Brett Schulman said in an email interview with Restaurant Business.
“The act of placing a digital order is traditionally a transactional experience,” Schulman said. “In an increasingly digital-first world, we are using technology to enhance the human experience with an elevated sense of discovery.”
The new app is “designed to balance speed and joy,” he said, to create a digital experience that more closely mimics walking down the ordering line in-store.
Users of Cava’s app are asked whether they have any dietary preferences and then what kind of a meal they’d like to order. Choices include Greens + Grains Bowl, salad, family meal, pita and more.
After that selection, the app guides users to customize their dish. Each ingredient is pictured and appears as an emoji on the screen once it is selected. After each choice, the user is guided down the virtual assembly line to build the next part of the order.
“The new ordering interface features a highly visual UX that mimics our in-store walk-the-line format, showing off each menu item with vibrant imagery and encouraging discovery of new ingredients and flavors as users follow the same flow as they would in a restaurant,” Schulman said.
Cava also offers a small selection of curated dishes.
“Our culinary team had been working on a curated bowls category before the pandemic and we accelerated the launch in response to changing guest needs,” he said.
Schulman said the app is too new to be able to tell whether it is driving sales or increasing check averages, but that he feels very pleased with the early results.
The Mediterranean brand has long been a leader in restaurant technology since its founding in 2011. It has invested in tech to enhance food safety on delivery trucks, onboard new employees and turn consumer data into actionable metrics.
Cava’s tech innovation has accelerated during the pandemic.
“It’s the strength of our in-house engineering capabilities and the ability for our team to be very agile,” Paris Jackson, Cava’s senior manager of store IT systems, said during an interview as part of the FSTEC Community event, hosted by Restaurant Business parent Winsight. “We were able to shift and innovate … to accelerate new contactless access channels. Things that took us 6 to 12 months, sometimes 24 months, we actually got to accomplish it in just several weeks.”