Nathaniel Ru is one of three co-founders of a business that does things a little differently than others. His company is Sweetgreen, a restaurant chain whose menu primarily consists of salad and fruit entrees but also has soups and proprietary beverages. Ru has talked about what sets this company apart from most other businesses, and it was five values that the company has, among which is making everything they do last longer.
The way Ru defined this value was that every decision that he or someone else in the company makes should last longer than themselves. Ru said that making everything last longer also goes along with the “win win win” value that means that everyone from the company employees to the customers and also the local community should come away a winner. And Ru also believes in authenticity in every aspect of this company so that every customer who comes through the door can speak of the company’s genuineness.
Nathaniel Ru, along with Jonathan Neman and Nicolas Jammet started Sweetgreen about 10 years ago upon graduating from Georgetown University. Ru, Jammet and Neman are all the sons of first-generation immigrants who moved to the US to start businesses and the three young men wanted to do the same. They studied business but still were looking for that big idea throughout their college time. They finally found their niche when they began to think of the limited healthy eating options on campus and decided they could start a business with that focus.
It began with the desire to turn an old tavern into a restaurant startup, and after a lot of hassle with the landlord they were able to do it. The three friends didn’t have a lot of capital to start with, but once they got through the first winter break on Georgetown’s campus they knew they could do it. Once they were able to get their first Sweetgreen location opened, they moved to another in a shopping strip and while things didn’t look as promising at this location, they were able to market the store through musical events hosted right outside.
Music has continued to be an important part of Sweetgreen’s marketing and has led to the formation of Sweetlife music festival. Beyond music, Ru and his fellow CEOs also regularly visit classrooms where they talk about their products and encourage young students to eat healthy. They now live in the coastal area of Los Angeles, but they don’t run Sweetgreen from any central headquarter locations, and they even go out to get their hands dirty working in Sweetgreen kitchens and interacting with their employees.
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