One of the best ways to find a market for an idea is to look around and find out what may be missing from that market. This was the basis for the restaurant Sweetgreen’s start. When partners Nathaniel Ru, Jonathan Neman and Nicolas Jammet attended Georgetown University together, they noticed a distinct lack of healthy restaurant options in the surrounding area.
With the unique combination of all three attending an entrepreneurship class together, all coming from first generation immigrant parents who started their own businesses, the three had the perfect background to strike out with a business venture of their own.
Backed by big name investors like Steve Case, Danny Meyer, and Daniel Boulud, the first Sweetgreen Restaurant was launched in 2007, shortly after Ru, Neman and Jammet graduated. The food was a hit with the locals, with it offering local, fresh, organic options for a more healthy dining experience. On top of the desire to want to feed people better food, the company is also driven by technology, with about 30% of all of its transactions happening online or on their own mobile app.
This is part of Sweetgreens strategy to run the company differently.
Five times each year, the corporate offices close and the employees spend a full day working at a restaurant to stay connected to the everyday business. With this, the company also doesn’t believe in having one large central headquarters with the co-CEO’s residing on both coasts. This allows the company to watch the market across the country and grow.
Co-CEO Nathaniel Ru believes that best way to grow the business is to start at the very beginning of the experience. Before even meeting with potential property managers when opening a new location, Ru meets with local farmers.
Sourcing locally grown vegetables are key to keeping Sweetgreen’s supply chain stocked with the freshest organic produce. Instead of requesting a certain crop, Ru also prefers to ask what the local farmers are growing instead. This helps eliminate food waste and gives the restaurant’s patron’s new veggies to try.
After this curtail step, it’s the restaurant design. Ru refers to as their “service design”, a combination of design, technology and storytelling. This design focus on personalizing the service experience to each customer instead of simply selling a product. Ru hopes that when someone comes into a Sweetgreens, they feel they’re being shown the whole experience and not being just given a dish.