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Nathaniel Ru and the story behind Sweetgreen

Doing the rounds in the whole of America as the sexiest startup to look out for, Sweetgreen has come a long way from its initial days that started with a funding of 40 friends and relatives. The Sweetgreen chain has taken the American markets of healthy and comfort food by storm. The Sweetgreen chain’s number is increasing to a whopping 40 chains across the states with cities like Boston and Chicago coming in the fray. Fortune recently declared in a recent article that “If legacy restaurants companies could start from scratch, most of them would like to look like Sweetgreen.” They have until now racked up to $95 million in three rounds of venture capital funding. Pretty impressive that is. Wouldn’t you say?


An interview with Nathaniel Ru, one of the founding members of the Sweetgreen chain of restaurants yielded many good insights to the working and branding of Sweetgreen.


Along with the usual demographic analysis that is done before opening a restaurant, Ru says that their timing to their store openings is also a crucial part of their strategy which seemed like a bit of stretch until Ru further clarified the details.


Opening the restaurant in New York at 28th and Broadway was the increasingly chic nomad neighborhood that occupied the place which set them apart from the fast casual chains along the 23rd street which were a prime spot for a lot of new tech and media companies. This move was done so to capture the essence of a place as not just as another lunch traffic kind of place to a more casual relaxing place of convenience for people to enjoy their dinners and weekends.


Another aspect that Sweetgreen concentrated was on their service design which was an instant hit after being implemented. The ingredients are all put out to display for customers to see for themselves and choose accordingly, which is a one on one process that the team member takes the customer through. It increases the accuracy of the salad making process.


The next step involved was to get the produce itself which is then vetted out by meeting the farmers themselves. The produce that arrives at the Sweetgreen chain comes very morning and only has the batch of ingredients that the farmers of the region can put together and not what the Sweetgreen wants. This helps in cutting down wastage of food and exposing the customers to veggies that they might not usually try.


About Nathaniel Ru

Nathaniel Ru is the co-founder and Co-CEO of Sweetgreen along with his fellow Co-CEO’s Jonathan Neman and Nicolas Jammet. Nathaniel Ru is a first generation immigrant. His parents along with the parents of his other co-founders are in a business of their own.

The business idea ventured into the head of Nathaniel while he was in Georgetown university along with his founding friends and they realized that the Georgetown area lacked healthy eating food joints and that’s when the business idea of Sweetgreen came in. Nathaniel and his friends opened Sweetgreen in the year 2007 and haven’t looked back since.


Nathaniel likes reading books, micro-managing and delegating work with his partners and names CEO of Under Armour Kevin Plank as someone he admires for his business vision. His favorite restaurant is Johnny Monis’ in DC area which according to him serves amazing Thai food.

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