Sweetgreen is a fast-growing salad chain with some serious support from tech.
In December, the chain received $US22 million in funding from Revolution Growth, an investment fund from AOL cofounder Steve Case and fellow former AOL execs Ted Leonsis and Donn Davis.
Founded in 2007 by Georgetown grads Nicolas Jammet, Jonathan Neman, and Nathaniel Ru, the brand focuses on sourcing ingredients from local farms to create salads that are healthy, quick, and affordable.
Sweetgreen currently operates 27 locations on the East Coast, and it plans to open more soon.
We recently visited a Sweetgreen restaurant in New York City to see if it lived up to the hype.
But Sweetgreen isn't just popular with the working crowd -- it has some cachet with hip youngsters, too. The company created this slogan, inspired by a song by rapper Kendrick Lamar, to appear on branded tees and tote bags. Kendrick Lamar was one of the artists to perform at last year's Sweetlife Festival, a music festival that Sweetgreen has put on annually since 2010. Lana Del Rey and Foster the People were headliners at this year's event.
A chalkboard sign above the cash registers showed which local farm each of the day's ingredients came from.
This location had one long table down the center, though some of the other locations have a larger dining area inside. The table is made of reclaimed wood, continuing the focus on locally sourced supplies.
Once you're ready to order, you can choose from a selection of signature salads, or you can create your own. They also have rice bowls and a rotating menu of seasonal salads.
The freshness of ingredients was a major motivation for Revolution Growth's investment. 'As Americans become increasingly concerned about health and wellness, we're proud to invest in a brand that stands for healthier choices, with a farm-to-table concept that supports local farmers while facilitating better diets,' Steve Case said in a press release announcing the funding.
The dishes looked amazing, too. Here's the seasonal salad that will be served throughout the month of June -- it's made of mesclun and kale and topped with roasted summer vegetables, roasted chicken, carrots, basil, and toasted parmesan crisp. It's tossed with the housemade pesto vinaigrette.
The Kale Caesar, one of the signature salads, is made of shredded kale, chopped romaine, roasted chicken, shaved parmesan, grape tomatoes, and parmesan crisp. It's topped with caesar dressing and a fresh lime squeeze.
And the Guacamole Greens is an organic mesclun salad with roasted chicken, avocado, grape tomatoes, red onion, and crushed tortilla chips. It's served with a lime cilantro jalapeño vinaigrette and a fresh lime squeeze.
In our opinion, Sweetgreen salads live up to the hype. We went with the guacamole greens salad, and it was delicious, fresh, and filling.
Below the counter there's a selection of juices and natural beverages as well as gazpacho, a cold soup that's perfect for the heat of the summer months.
Sweetgreen has its own app that you can use to earn rewards and pay with your phone. Once you spend $US100 through the app, Sweetgreen gives a percentage of each purchase to FoodCorps, a nonprofit that helps bring healthy meals to underprivileged schools.
Sweetgreen was one of the first businesses to partner with LevelUp, a startup that created a system where you can pay for purchases by scanning a barcode unique to your phone.
The store was busy with customers, but there were plenty of takeout orders as well. The bags behind the counter were waiting to be picked up.
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