Bougie national salad restaurant chain Sweetgreen is opening its first Austin location this week on Wednesday, August 12 at 1007 South Congress Avenue within the Music Lane mixed-use development in Travis Heights. The new restaurant is opening with both takeout and dine-in services, the latter within its indoor dining room and outdoor patio.
The chain also announced the location of its second Austin restaurant. It’ll be found at 2234 Guadalupe Street, near the University of Texas Austin campus. It’s set to open by the end of the year.
Sweetgreen is known for its pricier salads and bowls with grains, greens, proteins (roasted or blackened chicken, Cajun shrimp, roasted sesame tofu, etc.), and other vegetables, fruits, and dressings. There are signature and seasonal combinations, as well as a build-your-own option. The Austin shop will make use of Texas vendors and ingredients, including Central Texas-area farms such as Johnson’s Backyard Garden, Easy Tiger’s breads, Texas Olive Ranch’s olive oils, as well as locally sourced pecans, tortilla chips, feta and goat cheeses, and tofu.
“Austin has such a special and unique culture, vibrant art scene, and entertainment culture,” explained Sweetgreen co-founder and chief concept officer Nicolas Jammet on the appeal of the city. “And obviously, the food culture is just so strong.”
The South Congress location made sense for Sweetgreen’s first Austin location because “it’s a pretty influential drag,” said Jammet, “a bigger and heavily traffic drag, a place for people to see that Sweetgreen is here.” The busy street is busy often, full of restaurants, boutiques, vintage stores, and hotels.
Sweetgreen orders can be placed in person or digitally through the website or app for pickups or deliveries. When arriving at the restaurant, there are two entrances, one for pickup and delivery couriers, and the other for people placing orders at the restaurant. There is a dedicated shelf area where people can pick up orders without much interaction with the staff.
In order to adhere to novel coronavirus safety regulations, each Sweetgreen location — including Austin — features concierges who will direct customers as to where they should order, wait, or pick up food, as well as manage the number of people within the store at a time and lead regular cleaning efforts). There are social distancing markers on the floor, available hand sanitizing stations, and plexiglass shields over the cashiers. Deliveries can be made contact-free as well. Staffers who have tested positive or have been exposed to the virus are promised at least 14 days of paid leave.
At the beginning of the pandemic, “we definitely took a pause,” said Jammet, as the chain was in the middle of opening several locations across the country (the Austin one was supposed to open earlier actually), “just to really understand every city, understand what was going on, and more importantly, to build the right procedures and protocols internally around how we would open stores, how we would really be sure to adhere to any safety guidelines.”
As a nod to Austin, the South Congress space’s design features terracotta floors, neon signage, and wallpaper from artist Will Bryant, who is known for his colorful blob aesthetic, as seen with East Austin bar Last Straw, Clarksville-adjacent restaurant Better Half, East Austin coffee and beer shop Brew & Brew, and the Austin location of fast-casual Mediterranean chain Cava.
For Sweetgreen’s opening date, the restaurant is donating a meal to homelessness nonprofit Caritas of Austin with every meal sold. This is being done through the company’s Impact Outposts Fund, which focusing on serving free food to frontline workers in conjunction with World Central Kitchen. After Wednesday, the partnership will continue as well: “The intention is for us to continue the relationship,” said Jammet, “and find other ways to continue supporting those awesome organizations.”
Also for its opening week, Sweetgreen Austin is featuring daily specials and giveaways for the first 100 guests each day, including a tote designed by Bryant, Easy Tiger bread and Exau olive oil, a mug by online market New Origin Shop and artist Chantal Strasburger, and copper water bottles from neighbor Austin Motel.
This is the chain’s 110th across the country, and its third in Texas, after the two in Houston. The chain began in 2007 in Washington, D.C. by Jammet, Nathaniel Ru, and Jonathan Neman.
The Austin Sweetgreen is found within the growing Music Lane mixed-use development, which veers on the upscale side. Current and future tenants include members-only hotel Soho House (with a public-facing restaurant), New York-based Australian cafe Two Hands, Dallas-Fort Worth department store and restaurant Neighborhood Goods, California juice bar and health store SunLife Organics, Chicago-based hospitality company Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises’s Mediterranean restaurant Aba, along with retail shops such as fragrance shop Le Labo, clothing shop Reformation, and a fancy Equinox.