WASHINGTON – In their senior year of college, while many of their fellow Georgetown students were staying up late drinking at local bars, Nicholas Jammet, Nathaniel Ru and Jonathan Neman were pulling all-nighters to work on their business plan for a fast-casual dining restaurant.
Four years later, the friends and co-founders of Sweetgreen are about to open their 11th restaurant, with plans to open seven more in the new year.
“I think it’s really this idea of making healthy food approachable,” Neman says. “Our mission when we started Sweetgreen four years ago was to take healthy food, take these very basic sourcing practices, which is what we’re all about is the integrity of our food, and put it into a format — fast, affordable — and then put it within this lifestyle framework we call the ‘Sweetlife’ to make it cool and approachable for people.”
The ‘Sweetlife,” as Neman likes to call it, is a lifestyle based on healthy eating.
“It’s the idea of having a balanced lifestyle where you can work hard and play hard,” he says. “Really have it all.”
That idea of the Sweetlife has inspired the growth of Sweetgreen, which has evolved into more than a restaurant.
According to Forbes reporter Vanna Le, in choosing the 30 under 30 in the Food and Wine industry, the panel of judges were looking for “individuals with big ideas that are changing the industry.”
The panel winnowed the list down through a four-step process that began with thousands of nominations.
“I’m so thrilled to have Sweetgreen on the list because not only are these guys creating a new dining experience, they’re branding themselves in a way that appeals to the younger generation,” she says.
Appealing to a younger generation comes easy to the three, who were 21 years old when they decided to create Sweetgreen. The friends had grown tired of constantly searching for good clean meals around Georgetown, Neman says.
Almost all of the food served at the eight Sweetgreen locations in the D.C. Metro area and the two in Pennsylvania feature local and organic ingredients.
Each store features a list of what is local, what is organic and from what farm the food is coming.
Each restaurant uses 100 percent plant-based compostable packaging, offsets 100 percent of its energy use with wind energy credits — with some stores even featuring solar roof panels — composts food scraps, and uses energy efficient LED lighting.