Business in Focus: sweetgreen

A closer look at companies executing leadership excellence

In 2007, three hungry Georgetown students were constantly on the search for food. But, for Nicolas Jammet, Jonathan Neman, and Nathaniel Ru, Taco Bell just wasn’t cutting it. They started talking about their post-graduation plans and decided to fix their own problem.  And sweetgreen was born. Eleven years later, the founders of this hip and healthy farm-to-table salad chain are controlling one of America’s most successful startups.  With over 70 locations and 3,500 employees, sweetgreen is putting the sexy in salad.  The secret to their success?  In a word – culture.

As the founders told Bloomberg in a 2015 interview, “We’re all the children of entrepreneurs, so the standard institutional options for where we might work really didn’t appeal to any of us. We didn’t want to create in an institutional environment. So, in many ways, the desire to build a business of our own, in our own sustainable way, plus the desire to find better food options in Georgetown, did it.”

Some of the hallmarks of the sweetgreen culture are values, experience, and impact.


Values. These six core values embody the sweetgreen culture, spirit and dedication to doing what’s right.

  1. Win, win, win– create solutions where the company wins, the customer wins, the community wins.
  2. Think sustainably– make decisions that last longer than you will.
  3. Keep it real– cultivate authentic food and relationships.
  4. Add the sweet touch– create meaningful connections every day.
  5. Make an impact– leave people better than you found them.
  6. Live the sweetlife– celebrate your passion and your purpose.

Check out this video to see how employees describe values in action.

Experience.  sweetgreen attracts employees who never settle for mediocrity.  The tastemakers, the taste-testers, and the ones who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. As one employee stated, “living the sweetlife” is about what gives me energy every single day. For some, that means building relationships with local farmers. For others, it means organizing “Party with a Purpose” bringing together tens of thousands of people for a festival filled with music, healthy food, and giving back to a great cause.

sweetgreen-fort-point-channel-boston-building-restoration-19-1024x668Impact.  sweetgreen’s purpose is to inspire healthier communities by connecting people to real food. The company is committed to supporting small and mid-size growers who are farming sustainably, to creating transparency around what’s in its food and where it came from. As expressed in its mission statement, “impact is not an arm of our business, it is our business, and it permeates everything we do, from what we source to who we hire and how we support local communities. We want to make an impact and leave people better than we found them, and we tailor our approach in each market to reflect the needs of the community.”

Kudos to sweetgreen for getting culture right!



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