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Sweetgreen’s new World Trade Center location reimagines post-pandemic fast casual dining

October 26, 2021, 1:00 PM UTC

Fast casual salad chain Sweetgreen’s newest location could offer a glimpse of what we can expect lunchtime rush dining to look like during and after the pandemic.

The Southern California–based company is opening what its representatives describe as its most uniquely designed restaurant to date, at the World Trade Center in New York City, making Sweetgreen one of the first food and beverage tenants in Tower 3.

The design pairs functionality with impact to meet the needs of this high-density Manhattan location.
Katelyn Perry

Nicolas Jammet, cofounder and chief concept officer of Sweetgreen, notes that the company first picked out the site for a new location in 2019, and began working on the design about a year and a half ago.

“We have always made thoughtful investments in our store design, and we are doubling down on our efforts with this location,” Jammet tells Fortune.

For the new World Trade Center location, Sweetgreen’s in-house design team drew inspiration from the famed Oculus, located adjacent to the restaurant.
Katelyn Perry

Most of Sweetgreen’s 140 locations nationwide (and now 36 in Manhattan alone) have some sort of indoor dining space. But this 2,360-square-foot space omits indoor seating and features a state of the art pick-up station, catering to a growing number of customers who prefer to order their meals online through their laptops or smartphones. And, of course, the layout was designed to accommodate new health measures that have been commonplace since the outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020.

“We’ve evolved our customer experience with new safety standards that focus on crowd management and minimizing contact points,” Jammet explains. “We are building our stores with the flexibility to transform throughout the day to provide our customers and team members a safe environment and keep them connected to real food.”

Sweetgreen says its approach to design is influenced by its communities and surrounding neighbors, integrating local architecture and working with local artists to create one-of-a-kind pieces for its restaurants.
Katelyn Perry

For the new World Trade Center location, Sweetgreen’s in-house design team drew inspiration from the Oculus, an intricate structure designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, who has said in interviews that the exterior is meant to resemble a dove taking flight. Inside, the Oculus has an airy, futuristic feel, hosting both a commuter hub and luxury shopping center. The Oculus is located adjacent to the restaurant.

Within the eatery, design features include reflective and transparent materials to allow light to pass through; installed mirrors over the front service line that reflect the Oculus, giving customers a unique view of the structure; a ceiling articulation that expands into Sweetgreen’s pick-up zone, catering to its increasingly digital customer base; and an industrial kitchen design to create contrast.

Sweetgreen is opening four new locations in Manhattan this fall—in Midtown and the Financial District, two of the city’s densest areas for corporate office buildings, normally heavily populated and feeding the lunchtime rush in pre-pandemic times. Like many other retailers in these areas, Sweetgreen is betting big that office workers will come back to their desks sooner rather than later. The new World Trade Center location opens this week.

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