Washington, D.C.-based fast casual salad chain sweetgreen — which was founded in 2007 and currently operates 27 locations along the East Coast — today announced it had raised $18.5 million in a new and noteworthy round of investments. Revolution Growth, a firm that invests "in companies that can change the world," led the new round of funding, but New York-based restaurateurs Danny Meyer (Union Square Hospitality Group) and Daniel Boulud (Daniel, DBGB) are also newly on board with sweetgreen. That one of New York City's most lauded restaurateurs and one of the city's most lauded chefs have signed on to support a fledgling salad brand says a lot about sweetgreen's mission, motivations, and menu.
Also in on this round of funding are the founder and chairman of dairy purveyor Stonyfield Farm Gary Hirshberg and founder and CEO of creative online portfolio site Behance Scott Belsky. According to a release, the new round of financing will "help fuel sweetgreen's momentum, with a focus on the company's upcoming West Coast expansion, seasonal supply chain, sweetgreen in Schools program, and new consumer technologies." The company plans to open two locations in the Los Angeles area in early 2015.
Is sweetgreen poised to become the next Chipotle? Its co-founder and co-CEO Jonathan Neman didn't use those words, but noted in the release: "As sweetgreen grows from a regional to national brand, we will continue to differentiate ourselves with unmatched commitment to innovation and social responsibility." A visit to sweetgreen's website requires the user to click on their city or region in order to view the menu. This comes out of sweetgreen's partnerships with "more than 100" local farms, and its commitment to offering seasonal, location-specific menus.
Sweetgreen is also taking notes on Alice Waters' school garden project. The new round of funding will, in part, help grow the company's sweetgreen in Schools (SGIS) program. Since 2010, SGIS has sent a company representative into schools to teach kids "about the importance of healthy eating while making it fun." This year, 3,000 children across the East Coast took part in a SGIS program.
On the subject of innovation, sweetgreen plans on expanding its mobile app to offer online ordering. A new norm among chain restaurants, sweetgreen plans to launch its new order-ahead app by the end of 2014 at all locations.