Nathaniel Ru and some of his senior friends from Georgetown University recognized a need for more healthy and nutritious food options in the area. Besides offering healthy food they also wanted to provide an environment that was “fun and easy.”
They came up with Sweetgreen! Their first location was on M street, but obtaining it wasn’t an easy process. They constantly called the landowner of the lot pursuing an opportunity to speak in person and share their concept.
When they finally had the opportunity to meet with the landowner, they expressed interest if Nathaniel Ru and his friends could come up with more financial backing and an architect. They did just that, and within a few weeks they were able to enact their vision.
It’s been many years since Sweetgreen opened and they have expanded all around the country, including Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, and New York.
They have expanded on the theory that customers don’t just buy the product, they are buying what they do. They offer an amazing selection of delectable fresh foods, where the ingredients are provided by local small farmers.
After experiencing some set backs at their Dupont Circle location, they came up with the idea to combine music and food. They now offer live concerts to enjoy while consuming high quality food. The event ended up being named, Sweetlife, and has to lead to a lifestyle change in many of their customers.
Customers who purchase food with their app lead to benefits for the community; after $100 is spent they join “green status” which connects some of the income to improve food choices in schools, and also helps educate children on responsible food decisions.
Their Washington D.C. location has hosted yoga classes, which lead to a connection between their restaurant’s and local gyms and lifestyle classes.
Their biggest goal is to leave customers better off than when they arrived. They have definitely proved that time and time again. Their business model is constantly evolving to meet the health needs of their consumers, whether it’s food or just a relaxing environment to de-stress in.
According to Crunchbase, Nathaniel Ru has created an environment and dynamic that can’t be met by other chain stores like Chipotle and Sweet Tomatoes. They are a salad bar, but the entire restaurant has a very clean and cheerful feeling that rivals the other large chains they are competing against. There are clean lines smoothing the ambiance out, and the kitchen is wide open for viewing. Nathaniel Ru believes that the customers ability to see the ingredients and workers processing the food creates trust and excitement with their customers.
When Nathaniel Ru and his team collaborated over the app to make ordering easier, they spent an enormous amount of time getting the right photographs of each item, and also allowing the app to mimic the in-store experience of creating your perfect dish. By using the app you get to skip the long lines of excited customers and go directly to your food.
Ru and his team make the effort to visit small local farms in a location they are interested in creating a Sweetgreen’s before locating a plot of land. They are dedicated to working with local farmers instead of large corporations producing vegetables in an unhealthy way.
They do this so that they can understand what produce is available to create dishes with. Ru expresses excitement when he finds new vegetable varieties that are harder to find or unavailable in other locations. This business methodology pulls the community together and is proving inspirational to new entrepreneurs entering the industry.