Electronic store

Chopt Opens Eco-Friendly, Contactless Store in Virginia

Chopt opened a store in Arlington, Va., on Wednesday that optimizes work and serves as a model for a more sustainable future in the salad chain.

“We want to make sure we’re as environmentally friendly as possible without greenwashing,” said Colin McCabe, co-founder and co-president of Chopt.

The unit, which is the chain’s 83rd location, is approximately 40% smaller than a traditional Chopt restaurant. The site’s food preparation and storage equipment has also been reduced to save energy, McCabe said.

The most notable gear reduction? There is no cash register. While the restaurant layout still features his signature line, it won’t serve diners in order to foster a fast, contactless experience, McCabe said.

The pick-up wall at Chopt’s new contactless, eco-friendly store in Arlington, Virginia, which opened on July 13, 2022.

Diving Aneurin Canham-Clyne/Restaurant

If customers wish to order on the spot, they can do so on four touch screens installed from the bar seats. The unit also accepts digital and telephone orders, which can be collected from a series of shelves recessed into a wall.

Customers can still see the salads being prepared, however, and that visibility is important to Chopt. The aesthetic experience of watching an employee toss fresh, colorful food into a bowl and dice it is a draw for the chain.

“Focusing on speed is a key aspect for that, but one thing we really don’t want to lose when we do that is losing the sense of drama,” McCabe said.

This is Chopt’s second contactless restaurant – the first opened in New York in 2019. For next year, McCabe said, the salad chain will test iterations of the Arlington store design with different square footage and amenities to balance speed and power consumption to create a more efficient model.

Ingredients at Chopt's new eco-friendly, contactless store in Ballston, Virginia on July 11, 2022.

Ingredients along Chopt’s manufacturing line at its new eco-friendly, contactless store in Arlington, Va., which opened on July 13, 2022.

Diving Aneurin Canham-Clyne/Restaurant

Efficiency fueled by digital orientation, more work for preparation

In the Arlington store, this balance is achieved through the addition of fiber packaging, a more efficient HVAC system and smaller equipment to save energy, as well as an overhaul of responsibilities. employees.

“This kiosk eliminates all the station that we would normally have,” said Robin Brock, the chain’s district manager for Northern Virginia.

The unit will still employ as many workers — between 20 and 25 — as the major Chopt restaurants in its district, Brock said. But removing the cash register will free up more workers to focus on fulfilling digital orders and running the back office, said Telmen Buyan, the site’s general manager.

Salads prepared during employee training at Chopt's new eco-friendly touchless store in Ballston, Va. on July 11, 2022.

Salads prepared during employee training at Chopt’s new eco-friendly touchless store in Arlington, Virginia on July 11, 2022.

Diving Aneurin Canham-Clyne/Restaurant

Changes in the labor market have impacted how Chopt hires, Brock said. Before the pandemic, all management had to do was see who had applied online. Now, Chopt restaurants are actively looking for staff.

“We hand out flyers, talk to people, call ex-employees who may have left to do something else, [asking] ‘do you know anyone’ and using social media,” Brock said.

When visiting the Dive restaurant on Monday, employees – who started training about a month ago – practiced preparing salads, packing meals and cleaning the production line. A construction worker tinkered with the HVAC unit. They were preparing for Chopt’s pre-opening tradition, Chopt Gives, in which a restaurant will serve food the day before the opening in exchange for charitable donations.

The store will use its reassigned workforce and new digital technologies to process the same number of sales that other restaurants are racking up, McCabe said. Brock expects sales numbers for the Arlington unit to be similar to those of nearby stores, at between $30,000 and $40,000 a week.

“Our sales aren’t being eroded by moving to a more digital footprint,” McCabe said.