Sweetgreen: a Winner
Despite its young owners, Sweetgreen has developed a strong alignment between its operating and business models . Started in 2007 by three Georgetown college graduates, Sweetgreen is a fast-casual restaurant that serves farm-to-table salads and wraps [1, 2]. In 2014, Sweetgreen operated 31 stores with revenues of $50 million . In 2015, it opened 10 new restaurants and drove 50% growth in revenues . While innovation leaders accused salad bars of being “passe” , Sweetgreen developed a lifestyle brand beyond its basic food business. It cultivated mass “cool” appeal through its focus on convenience, health, and sustainability, each deeply evident in its stores, ingredients, and marketing .
Sweetgreen seeks to address the gap between fast, convenient restaurants and healthy food options . It partners with local farms to provide every ingredient offered in its salads and wraps . Consumers can stand in a fast-moving line to order customized or signature salads or pre-order online or the Sweetgreen app . Instead of traditional sodas, customers can only select from bottled water, teas, and juices as well as house-made teas and lemonades . Sweetgreen’s focus on health is deeply linked to sustainability, which is echoed throughout the whole store. All utensils, bowls, napkins, and cups are compostable [1, 5]; the stores’ tables and chairs are all made from local, reclaimed wood ; and even storefronts are designed to match the look and feel of each neighborhood .
Sweetgreen is more than a traditional food option; it embodies a lifestyle that appeals to its educated, health-conscience and social customer-base . As such, it does no traditional marketing and focuses on offering great customer experiences . This encompasses store experience, but also through its close association with well-known chefs and music artists . It lures customers to new stores by blasting music outside ; its motto of “Beets don’t kale my vibe” is inspired by the rapper Kendrick Lamar; and it attracts new customers at its annual music festival, Sweetlife .
- Structure: Product and Community
- Sweetgreen owns and operates each of its stores with no plans to franchise. It believes that its core asset is its partnerships with farms, which would be complicated under franchising agreements . As mentioned above, its product is fresh, organic, local vegetables and humanely-raised livestock as well as healthy drink options. It creates a community through its non-traditional marketing campaigns, which is largely grown through word of mouth and its annual Sweetlife Festival . Concert-goers get healthy meals while learning about energy, composting, and other sustainability issues .
- Processes: Service and Innovation
- Because of its mission to provide great customer experience and convenience, Sweetgreen has committed to keeping at the forefront of technology. It was one of the first to partner with LevelUp, a mobile payment app . It also has its own app, which accounts for 25% of the orders, that allows customers to skip the line and pick up their order at an appointed time . In addition, it aggressively searches for locations that provide convenience for customers, particularly during the lunchtime .
- Assets & Capabilities: HR and People
- Similarly, Sweetgreen carries out its mission of great customer experience through a rigorous hiring process. Frontline employees are the face of the brand and interact the most with customers, so Sweetgreen seeks out passionate, energetic people who embody the brand. To retain these employees, Sweetgreen provides clear career path growth. Additionally, it offers employee perks in keeping with the brand’s support for a balanced and healthy lifestyle .