Sweetgreen Founders ‘Never Done’

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Nathaniel Ru, Jonathan Neman, and Nicolas Jammet.

It’s been 10 years since Georgetown University graduates Nicolas Jammet, Jonathan Neman and Nathaniel Ru opened their first Sweetgreen restaurant on M Street NW. On Sept. 15, the trio opened a new location in the neighborhood where their business idea first took off.

“We’re thrilled to be, 10 years later, back in Georgetown,” Jammet said.

For the three men, now in their 30s, the university setting played an important role in bringing Sweetgreen to life. Nicholas Jammet, who goes by Nic, met Jonathan Neman (he calls him Jon) at Harbin Hall during his freshman year. Neman was living next door and Jammet then met Ru through Neman.

While the three of them were studying at Georgetown, they discovered a problem that needed solving: Where could they get something healthy to eat? They decided to take matters into their own hands. “We wanted to create a place where the food was healthy and delicious,” Jammet said.

So they got to work, testing out recipes in their dorm rooms. They also made the most of the courses they took as undergraduates at Georgetown (Jammet majored in business management, while Neman and Ru majored in finance).

One that stood out was an entrepreneurship course taught by Will Finnerty, who became a mentor to the cofounders and an early investor in Sweetgreen.

By the time the three students were seniors, they had worked out a business plan. They sought advice from friends and that curiosity became an important part of their modus operandi; to this day, the three businessmen seek out feedback from customers. According to Jammet, an important part of their mission is to have open and honest conversations. That way, there can be a sense of community through their business’ ability to connect with people and food.

This constant curiosity and the desire to learn are included in the trio’s values. “Ten years out of college, we’re still students,” said Jammet.

The result is a business that has expanded to more than 70 restaurants in D.C., Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, Illinois and California. Their goal of serving healthy, delicious food that is made from scratch and has a known provenance is part of a movement also associated with British chef Jamie Oliver. This work, Jammet said, is a lifelong journey.

“We’re never done,” he said.

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