• Sweetgreen plans to open a drive-thru in Colorado in winter 2021.
  • The chain is calling it a “drive-in” with options to stay and eat on-site.
  • Fast food brands have been competing to improve drive-thrus as they become increasingly important during the pandemic.
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Trendy salad chain Sweetgreen will open its first drive-thru in 2021, the brand announced on Wednesday.

Sweetgreen is officially calling the new concept a “drive-in,” which it describes as “an updated, healthy version of the traditional drive-thru but supported by tech-enabled ordering and innovative design.” There will be a few different ways to pick up food at the location: a “dedicated concierge for in-car ordering” and the typical lane for picking up food at any drive-thru, or customers can eat in their cars or on an outdoor patio with furniture and lounge seating.

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Sweetgreen concept.


The drive-in is planned to open in Highlands Ranch, Colorado in winter 2021. Sweetgreen says it will have solar panels and a “transparent” design to show off the kitchen and prep areas.

The news comes as fast-food and fast-casual brands across the country are optimizing drive-thrus. Drive-thru orders have grown across the fast-food industry since the pandemic closed many dining rooms. McDonald’s, already a drive-thru heavy hitter with 25,000 worldwide, says that 70% of sales in top markets are drive-thru orders.

Read more: Shake Shack, Panera, and Chipotle open drive-thrus to keep up with fast-food rivals like McDonald’s and Taco Bell

McDonald’s will test different drive-thru concepts that let customers order through the new MyMcDonald’s app, skip lines, park in special pickup spaces, and some restaurants will be delivery and takeout only. The company says that the concepts could be tested in as many as 10,000 stores in the coming year. 

Other chains trying to catch up. Fast-casual chain Chipotle is also experimenting with adding drive-thru only locations, called “Chipotlanes,” and Shake Shack plans to open its first drive-thru in 2021. Panera CEO Niren Chaudhary has similarly called drive-thrus a “definitive part” of the restaurant’s future plans.

Sweetgreen is valued at $1.6 billion, according to Pitchbook, and had 103 locations as of January 2020. In April, the chain announced that it had returned a $10 million Paycheck Protection Program loan aimed helping small businesses through the pandemic.

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