When Nathaniel Ru, Nicolas Jammet and Jonathan Neman were students at Georgetown University, they became fast friends. They discovered that they were all sons of entrepreneurs who had very little interest in joining a traditional company. They also found that they loved good food that was prepared right and was served in a pleasant manner, but they could not find it near the university. Third, they discovered that they were all sons of immigrants who had worked very hard in America to become a success.
By their senior year, the three had moved to a student flat just off campus. Realizing that getting great food that was good for them was still a problem, they hatched the idea of starting their own restaurant revolving around salads topped with great dressings.
Soon, the trio came up with a three-page business plan and approached their current landlord who owned an empty tavern around the corner from their apartment about opening a restaurant there. She told the young men to come back when they had a real business plan and some investors. Nathaniel says that it was the only time he ever wore a suit but apparently it did not impress the landlord.
The three went out and hustled following the wise landlord’s instructions. Soon, they returned with a new business plan and money from investors. The landlord rented them the building and the first Sweetgreen was born.
Nathaniel says those original values still lead the company today even though the company has grown to more than 40 stores. The first of those values is win-win-win. Nathaniel believes that only win the community and customer wins has the company won. Therefore, they find ways to interact with each community to help it become stronger. Customers coming to the restaurant are warmly greeted with doors being opened, umbrellas being available on rainy days and coupons and other sweets being given away to customers who get parking tickets.
The second core value, according to Nathaniel, is to think sustainably. He says this goal is the biggest one for him personally. He wants to create a company that will outlive him. He also wants to create policies within that company, including where the food is sourced, that will last for many generations.
The third core value is to keep it real. Nathaniel says that the company’s use of apps is one way that they keep it real. Customers choosing to pay through their app earn points and when they have spent $100, then the company makes a donation to feeding hungry children.