Sweetgreen Opens Drive-Thru Lane for Digital Orders

Online-order customers can peek through a big window to watch their food being prepared, bringing the in-store experience to their vehicles.

November 15, 2022

LOS ANGELES—Sweetgreen opened its first advanced order vehicle pickup window called “sweetlane,” which allows customers to pick up online orders through a drive-up window. The window is part of a new location that opened in Schaumburg, Illinois.

“The restaurant brand is reimagining fast food all while leading with purpose and making sustainable decisions that never sacrifice quality for convenience,” wrote sweetgreen in a statement.

To order via the sweetlane, customers place their order through the sweetgreen website or app and choose sweetlane as their desired retrieval method under “Select a Pickup Location.” When their order is ready, guests can drive through the “sweetlane” to pick up their meal. As they wait, guests can observe team members preparing orders with fresh ingredients through a round observation window—bringing the in-store experience to their vehicles. Dine-in and pickup inside the restaurant will also be available.

Sweetgreen says it’s “meeting the need for convenient, healthier options at scale,” and cites internal research showing that 52% of existing suburban customers find it challenging to locate fresh, quality food to order on-the-go.

“Innovation is in the sweetgreen DNA, and meeting customers where they are is the key to our brand mission; connecting people to real food,” said Jonathan Neman, CEO and co-founder of sweetgreen. “We hope this new experience provides ease and accessibility for the community craving deliciously fresh and healthy plant-forward food.”

For every meal sold on November 15, sweetgreen will donate a meal to the Schaumburg Township Food Pantry.

QSRs are attempting to up their level of convenience, as Forbes recently reported that convenience stores could be taking market share from quick-serve restaurants. Panera Bread recently opened an updated urban store format in New York and plans to open its first Panera To Go in New York next month after a successful pilot earlier this year. The Panera To Go format lacks dine-in seating and offers only Rapid Pick-Up and delivery shelves.

“At Panera, our innovation has always been rooted in the guest and associate experience, how we can reduce friction, drive convenience and bring Panera to new places where we know the demand is high for the freshly-prepared food we serve,” said Eduardo Luz, chief brand and concept officer, Panera Bread.

According to NACS State of the Industry data, foodservice accounted for 22.5% of in-store sales in 2021—significantly higher than the 16.8% reported a decade ago. Foodservice now makes up 35.5% of in-store gross profits, compared to 29.2% in 2011.

The convenience factor is an influencing reason on the industry’s increased market share in food sales. “As c-stores upgrade their foodservice offerings to be on par with QSRs, consumers may be more likely to choose the option that is most convenient for them,” writes Forbes. “Speed is one factor, but so is location (consider that 7-Eleven footprint) and additional offerings, like gas or beer. For the latter, the scale will always tip in c-stores’ favor.”

Forbes points to Sheetz, Wawa and 7-Eleven, which offer drive-thru and pickup, and they are far from the only convenience stores that offer these services. For convenience stores, having a drive-thru can be a boon but also tricky from an operations standpoint, NACS Magazine shares in “Drive-Thru Advantage” in the September 2022 issue.