Can fast food be seasonal?

Sweetgreen will now base more than a quarter of its menu on what's available from small, local farms.
A sampling of the new fall menu offerings. (Photo: Sweetgreen)

Menus at fast food joints change every now and then. A McRib here, a Pumpkin Spice Latte there. But basing more than a quarter of the menu on what happens to be available from small, local farms while you’re scaling to open locations in cities across the country?

That’s exactly what quickly-growing healthy salad shop Sweetgreen announced it will undertake. And it’s starting this fall with the new seasonal menu it introduced last week.

“This is our starting point, and if you ask me, I’m looking for more seasonality in our menu,” says director of culinary innovation Michael Stebner, who just joined the company in June (and appears to be living up to his title already).

Sweetgreen is keeping its six “core” salads year-round (for now) and will introduce six seasonal offerings (plus seasonal grain bowls) that will change five times per year. The company will continue to source most of its produce from local farms, and menus will differ from region to region based on what’s available (summer produce is not the same in Philly, Boston, and Los Angeles, after all).

Sweetgreen Tribeca—massive line snaking out the door not pictured. (Photo: Bess Adler for Eater)

This is at the same time the brand is set to open its first West Coast locations (two in Los Angeles in early 2015) while debuting more shops at a quick clip in its current regions and scouting for new cities—making different menus all over the place, which change every two and a half months, a serious challenge.

But Sweetgreen isn’t worried about lack of standardization. “Our business model allows for us to use the best possible ingredients,” Stebner says, emphasizing the incredible savvy of the buyers Sweetgreen has in place and the partners it works with. While it may be hard, it’s also why customers will continue to flock to them, he says. “This is what’s going to set us apart—the quality of the base ingredients,” he says.

Plus, if you haven’t noticed an increase in the availability of fresh, local produce recently, it’s definitely happening, he says. “It’s so much easier now than it was, and it’s only going to continue to get easier.” —Lisa Elaine Held

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