While quick service restaurants can be slow to innovate, soup, salad and bowls eateries may be among the more forward-thinking of the bunch. When popular salad chain Sweetgreen realized that few customers paid in cash and those who did slowed down their cashiers, for example, it decided to change things up at the register — and sought to become a cashless operation in 2017.
“One of the biggest complaints at Sweetgreen is the line, so by reducing cash, we’re able to serve customers a lot faster,” Jonathan Neman, the company’s co-founder and co-CEO, told The New York Times, adding that employees are able to perform 5 to 15 percent more transactions per hour at the restaurant locations that no longer accept cash payments.
With companies such as Sweetgreen, it’s no surprise that soup, salad and bowls establishments in PYMNTS’ Restaurant Readiness Index had the highest average scores at 50 out of 100, while other categories lagged behind (like frozen dessert distributors at 26 out of 100).
When trying to get QSRs up to speed on the latest on ResTech, these are five things restaurants should keep in sight.
Beacons are coming for table service. A small group of restaurants — 8.3 percent — in the soup, salad and bowls category have adopted beacons.
The technology, which is a class of inexpensive hardware, uses Bluetooth connections to send messages or prompts directly to a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet. At a café in California, for example, beacons can trigger an iPhone app and prompt diners to place an order. And, when their orders are ready, food runners can match their orders with the beacon placed at their tables too.
Digital wallets are yet to be mainstream. One quarter of salad and soup QSRs accept digital wallet payments. Instead, some retailers are opting to include payment options in their own apps. Sweetgreen, for example, partnered with LevelUp to launch a white label mobile payments and rewards application. Interestingly, LevelUp ended up hiring Theresa Dold — who had experience implementing the Sweetgreen app — to join its team.
Kiosks are popular fixtures. According to the index, 58.3 percent of soup, salad and bowls restaurants allow customers to skip the counter and place an order through a kiosk. In renovated Saladworks locations, for example, customers will browse menu items on Life Bar kiosks and use a drop-down menu to place an order.
The technology has the potential to appeal to those with strict diets as the menu is organized by preferences as low sodium, high protein, gluten-free, and vegan/vegetarian — in addition to specific diet programs like Weight Watchers and Atkins.
Cloud-based point of sale systems (POS) haven’t quite caught on. Only 27 percent of soup, salad and bowls QSRs introduced these systems, which allow retailers to accept payments on any internet-connected device at any time. In comparison, 100 percent of frozen desert QSRs adopted the technology, followed by coffee and tea at 58 percent.
For example, Florida-based Giardino Gourmet Salads has a cloud-based system that supports online ordering and the Punchh mobile loyalty platform. And Saladworks has a cross-system restaurant tech bundle that includes a unified, cloud-based point-of-sale system, managed internet hardware, online ordering, Profit Keeper, an online P&L statement tool, and a systemwide intranet and portal. The Saladworks system integrates Punchh, too, as well as the Cloud Clover Music System.
Order-ahead technology can mirror an in-store experience. Sweetgreen has rolled out an app allowing customers to place orders through their phones, then duck into the restaurant for pick up. By mirroring the in-store experience, the app provides bright imagery and information on local food sourcing. In addition, the app allows consumers to work around their dietary restrictions and save their favorite salads in four taps.
With the adoption of a cashless policy, Sweetgreen’s bottom line was not significantly impacted. While credit card transaction fees can add overhead, the new policy has been a wash financially for the salad company — aside from the side benefit of a decline in robberies, Forbes reported.
Yet the company can’t go completely cashless, at least not yet: Due to laws in in Massachusetts, customers in Boston must still be able to pay for their salad in cash with some greenback dollars, if they so choose. But perhaps Sweetgreen could install kiosks to convert cash to gift cards to convince even more patrons to opt in to their cashless strategy.