During Nathaniel Ru’s senior year at Georgetown University, he and some friends had trouble finding any healthy places to eat. Because they couldn’t find a spot, they decided to do something about it and start their own restaurant. Their first step was to find a place to start it in so they rented a space in a tavern on M street in the middle of downtown Georgetown. In just six years their idea has blossomed into a 21-store farm-to-table style restaurant called Sweetgreen.
When they initially rented the space where they started their first restaurant it turned out that their landlord also happened to be the landlord of an apartment building around the corner from where they all lived. When Nathaniel called her and explained what they wanted to do she wouldn’t talk to him about it. This did not deter them, however, because they called her every day until she finally agreed to talk with them face to face. They met her with a three-page business plan in hand and the meeting was a success because the landlord asked them to find an architect and some business backers and come back to her with a real plan.
Nathaniel said that they took almost a month to find the backers and an architect, but they did and they were, as he says, blessed and grateful that their landlord agreed to give their idea the green light. It was a miracle we got the chance, Ru said and he added that comment with the observation that they would have never been able to do that again. The timing was just right.
Sweetgreen now has stores in all the major cities in the northeast including their suburbs. These cities include Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. The food continues to be fresh and healthy as most of the ingredients are bought from local farmers and producers. Theresa Dold, sweetgreen’s digital marketing head said that the company is more than just a restaurant where you can get a good salad, it has a deeper purpose. She went on to explain that the founders looked at sweetgreens the same way as Steve Jobs viewed Apple. They are always looking from the inside out. The first thing they consider when taking on a new product or approach for the company is to ask the “why” first before they decide on the “what”.
Because of this, the approach sweetgreen takes in their marketing is very similar. She adds that sweetgreen wants to remain social, smart and local because people don’t buy what you do they buy the way you do it.