Yesterday, the fast-casual salad chain Sweetgreen announced a massive new round of investment. This rapidly expanding DC-based chain secured $18.5 million from investors like Revolution Growth and New York restaurateurs Danny Meyer (Union Square Hospitality) and Daniel Boulud (Daniel, Cafe Boulud). Per the company's announcement, the new round of investment would fuel West Coast growth (the company currently operates 27 East Coast locations), an improved and expanded mobile app, plus a school program to educate children about healthy foods.
So how did two titans of the restaurant industry come to personally invest in a salad chain? Sweetgreen Co-Founder and Co-CEO Jonathan Neman tells Eater that Sweetgreen approached Meyer and Boulud. "We talked to them about joining, and they were really excited about getting on board and continuing to advise us as we grow."
While Meyer has been slow to bring Shake Shack to the West Coast, that's exactly where Sweetgreen is headed next.
There is, of course, a little more to it than that. Meyer previously worked with Sweetgreen Co-Founder and Co-CEO Nicolas Jammet when Jammet was an intern at Meyer's restaurant group. Meyer has a famously good eye for investments, selecting a hospitality-focused portfolio on Mad Money that thoroughly trounced the S&P 500 over the course of about five years. In an email to Eater, Meyer explains that his "huge respect for the leadership and love [of] the product" at Sweetgreen is what convinced him to invest. He adds that he is excited about the "dynamic leadership team that's prioritizing a culture of hospitality, employees and community."
It's also worth noting that while Meyer has been slow to bring Shake Shack to the West Coast, that's exactly where Sweetgreen is headed next. Meyer has yet to open a West Coast Shake Shack location, though building is underway in Las Vegas. Perhaps investing in Sweetgreen will allow Meyer the chance to learn the landscape of fast-casual dining on the West Coast first hand.
Neman explains what the Meyer and Boulud investments mean for the chain: "Both Danny and Daniel have been like mentors and friends to the company for a long time," he says. Neman also says that Meyer has been "an inspiration in his philosophy of hospitality" while the company has looked up to Boulud for being an "incredible chef who crafts incredible experiences."
"It's a vote of confidence." — Sweetgreen Co-CEO Jonathan Neman
While Boulud and Meyer obviously have a tremendous amount of restaurant knowledge, their role in Sweetgreen will be "passive" says Neman. "They're investors and friends," he clarifies. "It's a vote of confidence." The two restaurateurs will be "a resource as [Sweetgreen] expands."
As previously reported, Sweetgreen's immediate expansion plans are focused on LA. But Neman has hopes that Sweetgreen will reach a huge audience in the future. "If you look at our stores, it's not all urban retail," he explains. "I think we could eventually be everywhere."