Nathaniel Ru and a couple of friends from Georgetown University noticed that there were no healthy places where they could eat. They decided to start one by themselves. Ru said that the first store was on M Street in the downtown area and they had opened more than 20 stores since then. Ru was speaking at the Wharton Marketing Conference hosted by the Wharton Business School. Ru said that the landlord of the building where the first store was located was also the landlord of another apartment near the place they lived. Ru said that they called her every day until she decided to sit with them to listen to their idea. He thanks the lady for believing in them and allowing them to open the first Sweetgreen store there.
Theresa Dold is the head of digital marketing. Theresa said that the reason they were successful was because they always started with the “why.” She stated that customers buy “why” you do something and not what you do. The company emulated Apple and wanted to establish a brand that developed products the way Apple did. She said that the founders wanted Sweetgreen to be social, smart, local, and cool. That is how they modeled it from the start.
Ru added that each store they open has to be in tune with the values of the company. He said that these values are important and are posted in every Sweetgreen kitchen. They make sure that everybody benefits from the experience, from the customers to the community. They also ensure that everything that is associated with the brand is authentic including the source of the food or the service that the employees provide. Ru said that the concept of fusing in music with food came up when they opened a store in the middle of Washington, D.C and they did not get customers for two weeks. Traffic to the store started increasing day by day when they started playing music on Saturdays and Sundays. They decided to start Sweetlife Music and Food Festival that is held annually.
Nathaniel Ru graduated with a Bachelor’s degree from the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University. He is the principal at SWTLF Ventures which makes investments in startup companies. The venture has invested in companies such as LOLA, Bond Street, MeUndies, and EatPops. He has been the face of Sweetgreen since it was founded and has helped the company to observe its values together with his co-founders.