In 2007, a trio of freshly minted Georgetown alumni were dissatisfied with their difficulty finding affordable and healthy food. From this problem, Sweetgreen was born. Jonathan Neman, Nicolas Jammet and Nathaniel Ru lead Sweetgreen with a set of core values that aim to enforce a “culture, spirit and dedication to doing what’s right.”
“Every decision, small or big, whether they are in the restaurant or in our corporate office, is made through these core values,” Ru said. “That is what you see in all our kitchens and every restaurant and it has provided a great foundation for growing the business.”
Over the past ten years, Sweetgreen has crafted a culture that focuses on providing healthy food and affordable prices, garnering the attention and love of many customers. Sweetgreen has continuously dedicated its efforts to constant communication lines with the army of farmers that drive production, even basing its menu rotations on farmers’ harvest schedules. In creating their season-specific signature salads, Sweetgreen balances what consumers want with what farmers grow.
“We start six months to one year in advance before releasing the menu. One of our favorite things is going into the supply chain and working with farmers to see what they’re growing and see what makes sense in that market,” Ru said. “We work in tandem with farmers to create a menu based on what they are growing and how we can bring that to life and tell that story. It is really a partnership with farmers which has been a big tool for us to grow.”
Sweetgreen is committed to tailoring each store to the community it serves. Every area has a different palate and the company seeks to connect with each individually, differentiating the company from many other chain restaurants that have the same menu in all its stores.
Sweetgreen has evolved over the past several years from a small space on M Street to a large company with 72 locations and over 1,700 employees. To commemorate its growing success, Sweetgreen will be opening a new store in Georgetown. This location will be 1,700 square feet bigger than the original location on M Street.
To honor their 10-year collaboration, Sweetgreen and non-profit FRESHFARM will bring FRESHFARM Georgetown Farm Stand to the Georgetown community. The stand will feature locally grown produce every Saturday morning from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. through October 28th.
Sweetgreen has shown its commitment to giving back to the communities it sources from and services.
“That entrepreneurship class was the place where they learned what it really took to start a business,” Ru said.
In giving advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs, Ru emphasized the importance of proactive problem solving.
“Never waste a crisis. With every problem, small or big, there is some type of opportunity you just have to find it,” Ru said.
Like most businesses, Sweetgreen has also encountered its share of obstacles.
When Sweetgreen opened its Dupont store, the first few weeks were very slow. However, Sweetgreen founders responded gracefully in the face of adversity. They decided to target both drivers and pedestrians by placing a large speaker outside the store and giving out free samples, rapidly boosting the number of customers. Eventually, Sweetgreen Dupont’s hospitality and block parties led to the annual “Sweetlife Festival,” an opportunity for the company to share delicious, healthy food and music with the D.C. community.
Sweetgreen has created its footprint by seeking to interconnect all aspects of a restaurant. From open farmer-chef lines of communication to friendly customer service, Sweetgreen founders have focused on establishing positive relations among all elements of their business. Ten years after its founding, Sweetgreen continues to expand, with a growing number of locations in several communities.
“Looking forward at the next 10 years we hope that Sweetgreen will continue to connect people with real food,” Ru said.
The new Sweetgreen on Wisconsin will be open on Sunday, Sept. 10 at 1044 Wisconsin Avenue.