Sweetgreen Taps Chipotle Vets As It Moves Into Midwest

Sweetgreen restaurant

Sweetgreen has reportedly hired two former Chipotle executives to help with its Midwest expansion.

Company officials told The Wall Street Journal Monday (Aug. 21) that it had named Michael Kotick, who had been Chipotle’s senior director of marketing, as its head of marketing, and Chad Brauze, previously of Chipotle and Burger King, as its head of culinary.

The new hires are part of the company’s rethinking of its menu as it tries to serve a larger, more diverse, base of diners, co-founder and chief brand officer Nathaniel Ru said.

“As we look forward, we’re really focused on larger integrated marketing and storytelling, and a big focus on our menu,” Ru said, noting that the company is experimenting with that menu as it expands into other parts of the country beyond its coastal roots.

That means expanding the range of the company’s dishes that contain more proteins, along with other offerings aimed at getting customers to see Sweetgreen as a dinner destination, a company spokeswoman said.

Brauze, meanwhile, told the WSJ he wants to develop Sweetgreen’s answer to Chipotle’s dips like queso and guacamole.

“It’s about, what’s going to drive an extra $5 on that visit?” he said. “What’s something that’s exciting, that’s shareable on top of just the lunch, or that you can buy for maybe a snack later?”

Generating excitement is important at a time when many consumers are avoiding restaurants, as recent PYMNTS research has shown.

Our “Connected Dining” report found that 58% of consumers made restaurant purchases in June, a 9 percentage point drop from the prior month and the sharpest difference in monthly purchase percentages since November.

Data from the same report showed consumers pulling back on how often they dined out in June and how much they spent at restaurants. In June, the average spend per visit averaged $24.30 per person, a decline of almost $2 from May and the lowest spending amount for the year so far.

In addition to expanding its menu, Sweetgreen has also recently been investing in automation, as noted here in June.

The company announced in May it was piloting its first automation-powered location, nearly two years after the initial purchase of robotic restaurant Spyce. Then in June, Sweetgreen said it was planning to integrate automation into almost all of its restaurants within the next five years.

Speaking at William Blair’s 43rd annual Growth Stock Conference, CEO Jonathan Neman’s said Sweetgreen’s first test of an automated store has shown that the technology works, increasing throughput, maintaining more consistent portions, improving accuracy and reducing the brand’s labor needs.

“In five years, we do expect all Sweetgreen stores to be automated,” Neman said.