A College Dream, Now A Reality: Sweetgreen

Nathaniel Ru and his college friends struggled week to week during their senior year at Georgetown on finding healthy, fun places to dine at. Several years later, they put their struggle to rest. Ru and his friends found a 560 square foot tavern in the middle of the area downtown.


Nathaniel Ru and his three friends contacted the landlord with a business proposition. The landlord declined their proposition at first. But, persistence paid off. Ru and his friends took turns calling the landlord until she agreed to a meeting in person. With three pages ready for their presentation, the landlord must have sensed the potential in their dream.


Nathaniel Ru and his friends business concept and current venture is called Sweetgreen. Sweetgreen is spelled uniquely with one of the e’s flipped backwards and the rest of the lettering lowercase. Sweetgreen is in the vital cities of the Northeast. The locations are New York, Washington, Philadelphia, and Boston. The menu offers fresh food that is healthy. The majority of the ingredients come from local suppliers and farmers.


Ru spoke at the Wharton Marketing Conference on his experience. The conference was titled, “The New Era of Marketing: Globalization, Analytics, and Choice.” Theresea Dold, digital marketing head, stated that Sweetgreen is compared to the company, Apple. The reason for the comparison is that both of the companies looked on the inside then looked on the outside. Sweetgreen’s marketing appeal is similar to Apple too. They want to appear lively, smart, bold, sexy, and local.


The company holds to its values and each restaurant that opens has to live up to those values. That is what pulls them apart from the rest. Sweetgreen doesn’t have a corporate chain to serve, but they do serve the community. At the start of Sweetgreen’s concept, three values came to life. Ru and his friends sat in their dorm room and came up with those three. After some careful thought, 5 core values are now posted in the kitchens at Sweetgreen.


The Five Values

-Win, if a victory is made by one, then it’s a victory for everyone.

-Long term sustaining. Each decision made should be made for the long haul.

-Keeping it real. Meaning that everything should be genuine.

-Adding in the sweet. If employees give the best of themselves, then customers will spread the word.

-Working together.

Nathaniel Ru – Article recap

Healthy food at a reasonable price, Sweetgreen is a fast-growing salad chain. Sweetgreen was started in the Washington, DC area back in 2007 and has grown to over 40 locations in New York and California with shops opening in Boston and Chicago as well. Lines extending outdoors is a common scene; Nathaniel Ru, co-founder of Sweetgreen estimates that you will wait around fifteen minutes in line due to popularity not lack of service.


Part of Sweetgreen’s business strategy is the timing of store openings. When the business opened their first New York location, they intentionally set it up away from the rest of the fast-casual restaurants. This allow them to get dinner and weekend traffic instead of focusing on just the lunch crowd.


Sweetgreen focuses on providing what they call Service Design. This is a combination of technology, storytelling, and design. Each customer is provided personalized and consistent service. 30% of customers order through the online application. Sweetgreen put extra effort in designing the app to provide a visual experience similar to walking into the store. The app provides detailed photos of the fresh ingredients, and when you come to pick up your order, a special area is setup to skip the lines.


Customers are greeted with smiling faces when they walk into the restaurant, and are able to view the open kitchen. The dressing and salad ingredients are prepared fresh from scratch each day. Fresh produce is delivered each morning to provide the best ingredients for each meal. The open kitchen allows Sweetgreen to show their guests what they do instead of just telling them about it.


Another aspect of Sweetgreen that sets them apart from other restaurant chains, is that they meet with farmers when opening in a new location before talking with landlords for the restaurants themselves. This allows them to make sure that they have proper supply chains for their new restaurants in the area. This creates variety in the menu between locations and there’s less waste of food. At the end of the day this allows customers to experience new and unique foods that they normally wouldn’t be able to taste.


Nathaniel Ru is the Co-Founder and Co-CEO of the fast-casual chain of restaurants called Sweetgreen. Together with fellow Georgetown undergrads Nicolas Jammet, and Jonathan Neman, the three created what is now a $95m startup back in 2007.