During their senior year as undergraduates at Georgetown University, Nathaniel Ru and his friends experienced difficulties in finding healthy places to eat. This led to the Georgetown business school seniors considering opening up an eatery to serve the local community with fresh and healthy food. Their idea gave rise to Sweetgreen in 2007. A farm-to-table style restaurant with over 60 stores in operation in the United States.
A distinguishing moment for the company came in 2009 when the founders got a bigger space near Dupont Circle, in the middle of Washington. They invited their parents and investors for the opening, but no customers showed up during the event and for the next two weeks. Instead of panicking, the founders came up with the idea of playing music every Saturday and Sunday outside the store. Their main aim was to connect music and food. This idea brought in customers and gave rise to sweetlife. Sweetlife has become the region’s largest music and food festival, attracting as many as 20,000 people.
Sweetgreen markets itself not just as a place to buy food but as a why? Company. Theresa Dold, the company’s head of digital marketing, likened the company to Apple in that they first think about why before thinking of the what. In pursuit of this ambition, the company has come up with five values that are posted in all its stores. First, Sweetgreen concentrates on a win, win, win which gives the customer and the community a stake. Second is the idea of thinking sustainably hence building for the long-term. Thirdly, they focus on keeping it real, this puts emphasis on authenticity of operations. The fourth is making it sweet and finally making an impact.
Sweetgreen engages in tribal marketing initiatives to help its customers feel connected to a community according to Dold and Ru. The customers can pay through the company’s mobile app which helps them contribute to sweetgreen in School, a program dedicated to teaching underserved students healthy eating habits. Another marketing initiative is to partner with other healthy lifestyle businesses in the community.
As the company expands, the founders ensure that it remains focused on its goals and initial aims. Thus, each of Sweetgreen new stores has its architect and a unique design that reflects local tastes. Every store has a food sourcing blackboard to show which ingredients came from local vendors.
Nathaniel Ru graduated with a BS in Finance from Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business in 2007. He is a co-founder and currently a co-CEO of Sweetgreen. He has been recognized as a key innovator in food and business and awarded various accolades. Among them, named to Fast Company’s 50 Most Innovative Companies, Food & Wine’s 40 Big Food Thinkers 40 and Under and Forbes’ 30 Under 30.
Nathaniel Ru has built his restaurant chain to 40 restaurants, with more to follow. The first restaurant was in Washington DC, established in 2007. Since then it has expanded to New York and California. There are more restaurants planned for Boston and Chicago. The restaurant was started with a number of new ideas that have helped it grow and gain business.
Sweetgreen, the restaurant chain Ru has grown, is dedicated to providing nutritional salads at a reasonable price. Unlike the vast majority of restaurant, in particular fast food places, these restaurants provided food that is actually good for you. Even better is that the salads are substantial and filling and so serve as an excellent choice for lunch or dinner. They offer a variety of salads that are sure to appeal to most people.
Sweetgreen has a unique way of sourcing its food. When it decides to enter a market the first thing it does is talk to local farmers. Ru wants to know what the farmers are growing rather than dictating what they want. In this way they can obtain ingredients that are new to customers. This also has the added benefit of reducing food waste as they are buying what is actually being grown. An example would be broccoli, where the leaves of the plant were being tilled back into the earth the farmers as nobody wanted them. It turns out their just as healthy as the crowns so Ru made a deal to buy these which saves on food waste and gives customers something they haven’t had before.
Their real estate strategy relies on the sequencing of new stores. They open stores in upper class areas of the city in order to be near where people live, rather than where they work. In this way they want to be able to sell not just for lunch but dinners and weekends as well.
In 2007 Nathaniel Ru obtained a bachelors degree Finance from Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. That same year he opened Sweetgreen with two other individuals. The goal of the company is to provide local, sustainable food that is healthy and well priced. In 2010 Ru and his partners also launched Sweetlife, which is a music festival. One of the goals of the festival he established is to be carbon neutral and also celebrate healthy living.
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Everyone in Georgetown knows and loves Sweetgreen. They must have all sampled the mouth-watering delicacies, especially the salads sold by Sweetgreen. In the short span of a few years, this company has transformed from a little unknown venture into one of the most profitable healthy fast foods not only in Georgetown but the entire nation as well. The company was started by Nathaniel Ru, Jonathan Neman, and Nicholas Jammet. The trio was motivated to start a business which would satisfactorily address the problem of affordable and healthy food around the campus.
Sweetgreen’s First Store
Admittedly, they only had passion; the necessary skills and experience were grossly lacking. The first location they chose was on M Street. The fact that it was only 500 square feet did not discourage them pursuing their dreams and aspirations. The trio used their collective ingenuity and creativity to overcome all the hurdles and obstacles that came their way. From an early stage, the boys knew they had to create a business which would resonate positively with the community. To that effect, their brand soon incorporated music on top of food. It was here that the annual music and food festival started.
Enjoy Kendrick Lamar Music to a Salad
Neman, one of the co-founders, was quoted saying that it was a cool thing to attend a Kendrick Lamar concert and eat a bowl of salad or some quinoa at the same time. The markets responded really well to the franchise. From its humble beginnings, it now hosts 15,000 person events. Events which attract global music sensations the likes of Avicii, Calvin Harris, The Weekend and The 1975.
Here are the five primary core objectives:-
Win, Win, and Win
Keep it Real
Add the Sweet Touch
Make an Impact
To this very date, Georgetown remains dear to the hearts of the founders of Sweetgreen. The entrepreneurs believe in creating genuine human connections and reaching and relating to their clients at an emotional level. Moving forward the firm hopes to continue educating the students of Georgetown and its environs on the importance of proper dieting and of living a positive life.
About Nathaniel Ru
Nathaniel is one of the co-founders of Sweetgreen. Mr. Ru graduated from Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business in the year 2007. He attained a BS in Finance. In 2010, Nathan with his partners started Sweetlife. Sweetlife is a musical showcase bringing together musicians from all over the world. The show attracts well over 20K attendants. It also brings together top chefs, food trucks, and farmers together. Nathan is deeply involved in philanthropy.
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