Sweetgreen named 2019 Tech Accelerator of the Year

The fast casual was honored, along with Wingstop and 7-Eleven, by the editors of Restaurant Business at the FSTEC conference.
sweetgreen winner
Photograph courtesy of Scott Mitchell Photography

Sweetgreen has been named the most innovative company in restaurant technology. The fast-casual better-for-you chain was honored by the editors of Restaurant Businesswith the 2019 Tech Accelerator of the Year award. 

Sweetgreen has been a tech-forward brand for years, and the $1 billion company isn’t slowing down—it’s continuously investing its resources in tech advancement. Its latest cash infusion has been used, in part, to focus even more on technology. Among its recent innovations, Sweetgreen is developing its own software that’s focused on customer personalization and deepening its use of blockchain to increase transparency and security of the supply chain. 

The chain has also focused on expanding the traditional format for off-premise delivery via its Outpost program. In an effort to scale delivery while also keeping it cost-effective, the chain set up designated pickup areas inside large office buildings, allowing employees to place customized orders via Sweetgreens’ app and grab lunch off the shelf, offering free delivery for the service. 

“It goes back to being customer obsessed,” said Dan Beranek, VP of digital product and experience for Sweetgreen, while accepting the award. “That drives everything we do. We have to remove friction from not just customers getting the food, but for our team too.”

But being the most innovative doesn’t mean always seeing success with every tech-forward experiment. Sweetgreen was a forerunner in cashless restaurants, but it reversed that payment policy earlier this year, saying the operational benefits were outweighed by the “unintended consequence” of some consumers being unable to become customers. 

“It’s that willingness to be a pioneer and trial different technologies and approaches that sets Sweetgreen and our other winners apart,” said Sara Rush Wirth, content director for Restaurant Business. “All of our Tech Accelerator Award winners are forward-thinking brands that show how innovation can both enhance the customer experience and increase operational efficiencies.” In fact, as Beranek said, “We’re excited to work with anyone who has a good idea and can move [one of our] key measures forward.”

Sweetgreen was selected from among three recipients of Restaurant Business’Tech Accelerator Awards, presented at FSTEC. Now in its fifth year, the Tech Accelerator Awards honor best-in-class foodservice operators that have proven to be leaders in technology. The 2019 class of winners are: Sweetgreen, Wingstop and 7-Eleven. 

Chosen by the editorial team of Restaurant Business, the Tech Accelerator Awards honor tech-minded foodservice brands that advance back-of-house innovation, consumer-facing advancements, automation, data usage and more. 

Past Tech Accelerator of the Year winners are Domino’s Pizza, Panera Bread, Eatsa and University of Colorado Boulder. 

FSTEC is the foodservice industry’s top tech conference, presented by Restaurant Business’ parent company, Winsight. 

POS software solution company ParTech sponsored the award presentation and panel. Lincoln Manning, VP of POS solutions for the company, said during the awards presentation, “There are some great minds in this room that are full of ideas about how to enhance their customers’ experience. We feel it’s our job to set those great ideas free.”

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