Sweetgreen’s founders focus on healthy, affordable food options

Fast food chain Sweetgreen serves unique salads for a healthy alternative to burgers for lunch. Its founders, Nicholas Jammet, Jonathan Neman and Nathaniel Ru, lamented the lack of healthy options near their alma mater, Georgetown University, so they did something about it. Learn more:


When their first location remained packed through winter break, they knew they had something special. The concept grew from that single restaurant in 2007 to 40 locations at present. Each Sweetgreen uses fresh, organic, local produce. Its founders meet with local farmers before deciding to site a location to ensure an adequate supply chain exists.


“We want to feed more people better food,” Ru told Fortune.


Some well known investors agree there’s a need for its niche. Daniel Boulud, Steve Case and Danny Meyer each invested in the chain.


Sweetgreen doesn’t just serve up different food. It conducts business differently, too. No home office exists. Its leadership lives and works bi-coastally while growing the business. The founders take a hands on approach at every level. They even scale to the barest bones the corporate staff five times a year to get management into the restaurant locations to meet and serve customers. Learn more:


Although a diner may choose to go through the Chipotle-style serving line to build their meal, about a third use the website or app. They breeze into the restaurant to find their fresh, crisp lunch awaiting them.


Neither Ru nor his colleagues studied hospitality nor to be a chef. He earned a BS in Finance from Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, graduating in 2007, the same year they opened the first location.


That means he focuses as much on service design as tasty food. While diners admire the open kitchen and see the dressings made from scratch, they should also admire the unique ingredients. Sure, there’s kale, but there’s also broccoli leaves. They come from the same plant that provides the tasty florets and provide an intriguing alternative to lettuce.


The college friends founded a second venture in 2010, the regional music and food festival, Sweetlife. The annual festival attracts about 20,000 attendees who enjoy top musical artists and tasty food from chefs, farmers and food trucks. Learn more: