Wouleta Ayele was instrumental in advancing the Starbucks app. Now, she’s moving to Sweetgreen to take the salad chain’s tech to the next level as it prepares to IPO.

  • Sweetgreen has been a digital innovator since it was founded in 2007. 
  • The restaurant unicorn, valued at $1.8 billion, confidentially filed its IPO paperwork on June 21.
  • Former Starbucks tech executive Wouleta Ayele will help the chain scale its operations nationally. 

Long before the pandemic forced restaurants to think about their digital game plan, restaurant unicorn Sweetgreen billed itself as a tech company aspiring to be “the Starbucks of salads.” 

The made-to-order salad chain has led digital innovation in the fast-casual category for years. Now, it is looking to go bigger on tech to scale nationally ahead of its IPO.

But to achieve those goals, the chain knows it must hire big as well.  

Earlier this month, Sweetgreen, which confidentially filed its IPO paperwork on June 21, named former Starbucks tech executive Wouleta Ayele as its new chief technology officer. She started her new role on August 17.

A week into her new position, the company announced it had acquired robotic-restaurant chain Spyce on Tuesday.

As senior vice president of technology services at Starbucks, Ayele helped bring the coffee giant’s pioneering app and loyalty program to the masses. Her game plan for California-based Sweetgreen, valued at nearly $1.8 billion, is to turn the brand into a powerhouse chain with digital capabilities that match her former employer and fellow industry leader Domino’s.

Wouleta Ayele

Wouleta Ayele, chief technology officer at Sweetgreen.

“They’ve done an amazing job building their digital ecosystem,” Ayele said of Sweetgreen in an exclusive interview with Insider. “I’m hoping we can leverage that to the next level.”  

At Sweetgreen, she will be responsible for supply chain efficiencies, advanced restaurant operations, and developing the company’s digital platforms, including its mobile app. She’ll also oversee the hiring of new talent to the chain, Sweetgreen said.

Ayele, who has also worked for the Coca-Cola Company and Hyundai in her career, said she’s thrilled to be part of a chain that is at “the intersection of food and tech.”

Jonathan Neman, Sweetgreen’s CEO and cofounder, said in a statement: “As we continue to scale and think about what the future of fast food will look like, the technology powering Sweetgreen plays an integral part in creating efficiencies and providing our guests with the best experience possible.”

Ayele, he added, “has the experience, savviness, and leadership to help us make that vision a reality.”

As the company prepares for an IPO, Ayele’s role will be to stitch together the company’s digital ecosystem using her vast knowledge of data and supply chain analytics, she told Insider. That will include Sweetgreen’s app and website, according to a company spokesperson.

Sweetgreen app

Sweetgreen’s new tech chief plans to improve the brand’s digital platforms.

In 2020, researcher Technomic estimates that sales at the 133-unit chain reached $189 million, up 2.3% from the year prior. The company has also raised $671 million as of June 2021, according to PitchBook. Sweetgreen declined to provide current sales figures to Insider.

Half of Sweetgreen’s transactions came from digital orders prior to the start of the pandemic. Digital sales have since grown more than 70%, as more people work remotely, according to a CNBC report.

The company’s focus on off-premise orders has fueled its growth over the years. Sweetgreen incorporated contactless pick-up shelves in stores well before these design features became a pandemic-fueled necessity. The chain also secured a large lunch following through its Outpost program, where stores delivered meals to corporate offices that signed up.

But that program, and the chain’s reliance on city-centric foot traffic, hurt the brand when workforces fled to the suburbs during last year’s lockdowns. The chain was forced to cut 20% of its corporate staff in October 2020.

How Outpost will play out in an ongoing remote work atmosphere is unclear. Ayele was hesitant to discuss the program details because she hasn’t started at the chain yet.

But she did say Outpost plays an important role in Sweetgreen’s mission of  “connecting people to real food.” 

“Sweetgreen is leading the way with Outpost,” she said. “All those capabilities we will continue to build on the foundation that Sweetgreen already has.”

Source: Wouleta Ayele was instrumental in advancing the Starbucks app. Now, she’s moving to Sweetgreen to take the salad chain’s tech to the next level as it prepares to IPO.

*This is a free press release. Upgraded press releases are ad-free!

New Tropical Depression Forms; Odette Well Offshore

A file photo of a tropical storm over Florida and Georgia. (NOAA via Getty Images) MIAMI—Forecasters announced the formation of a new tropical depression in the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday night, as the former tropical storm named Odette headed well offshore of Nova Scotia in Canada. Tropical depression Sixteen was located 670 miles (1,080 kilometers)…

Read Press Release

Emmys 2021 on Sunday: Start time and how to watch or stream online – CNET

The Emmys are absolutely stacked this year. VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images It’s been a huge year for TV, and you’re probably more than ready to watch the 2021 Primetime Emmys. The award ceremony takes place Sunday, with shows like Mare of Easttown, The Queen’s Gambit, I May Destroy You and WandaVision competing in the night’s many categories.Recently, the Creative Emmys…

Read Press Release

Evergrande Moment of Truth Arrives With Bond Payment Deadlines

(Bloomberg) — China Evergrande Group bondholders are about to find out if the property giant’s liquidity crisis is as dire as it appears.Interest payments on two Evergrande notes come due Thursday, a key test of whether the developer will continue meeting obligations to bondholders even as it falls behind on payments to banks, suppliers and…

Read Press Release

ADA Price Slides 20% Over 2 Weeks

Cardano network is looking at a massive bounty of new smart contractsSmart contract application delay affecting Cardano prices negatively2,352 smart contracts which have been initiated in the Cardano platformFlush with the success of the Alonzo hard fork, the Cardano network is looking at a huge swathe of new smart contracts. However, it will be some…

Read Press Release

Wouleta Ayele was instrumental in advancing the Starbucks app. Now, she’s moving to Sweetgreen to take the salad chain’s tech to the next level as it prepares to IPO. - Click To Share

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on reddit
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Share on whatsapp