My guest this week is Jonathan Neman, the co-founder and CEO of Sweetgreen. Sweetgreen is a fast-casual restaurant chain that Jonathan co-founded in 2007 during their senior year at Georgetown when he realized they couldn't find a healthy, affordable, and convenient place to eat. Today, Sweetgreen operates in 11 markets and will have about 160 restaurants across the US by the end of 2021. In our conversation, we cover the origins of Sweetgreen and how it builds a direct relationship with its customers, how Jonathan thinks restaurants should work with marketplaces like DoorDash, and the economics of operating restaurants. While Sweetgreen is primarily a restaurant concept, Jonathan brings a tech-first mindset to the food industry, focusing less on single-store economics and more about customer lifetime value and the importance of owning the relationship with the customer. I hope you enjoy my conversation with Jonathan Neman.
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[00:03:04] - [First question] - The origins of Sweetgreen
[00:05:47] - Something they did from a position of naivete, working their supply chain
[00:07:18] - Most common reason restaurants go wrong
[00:08:35] - Building the first restaurant and lessons along the way
[00:12:22] - Effective menu building
[00:14:36] - The Sweetgreen network and how they view the restaurant as a network
[00:21:05] - What their digital business means compared to other restaurant businesses
[00:23:55] - How they have improved at converting people into their ecosystem
[00:27:40] - Creating win-win partnerships
[00:29:12] - The pros/cons of the marketplaces in the food industry
[00:32:58] - The general economics of a restaurant
[00:36:58] - Allocating capital differently when the focus is the customer and not the store
[00:39:36] - How tech trends aimed at improving personal health plays into Sweetgreen’s plans
[00:45:11] - Their focus on sustainability for the business
[00:47:56] - The core values of ‘Add the Sweet Touch’ and ‘Live the Sweet Life’
[00:50:18] - Kindest thing anyone has done for him
[00:51:38] - Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time