We recently caught up with Jonathan Neman, Founder of Sweetgreen & former Georgetown Grad, to discuss happiness, success and the Sweetlife.
Q: Virginia is stoked! We heard that Sweetgreen will be opening new locations in both Reston and Ballston. When and where exactly will this happen?
A: We are super excited to be opening in Virginia! I really think that there has been a void in healthy food in both Reston and Ballston and we are thrilled to be a part of that community. Reston is set to open in mid-September (11935 Democracy Drive, Reston, VA). Ballston will open sometime in October (4075 Wilson Blvd, Ballston, VA)
Q: Congratulations on the mention Sweetgreen received in the August issue of SPIN Magazine! How did that happen?
A: Thanks! All being avid music fans and readers of SPIN this was a big deal for us. They heard about our festival and all of the cool musical acts we had there and wanted to do a little feature. Definitely felt good to have all of the hard work put into the festival validated by a publication such as SPIN. It got us even more excited about Sweetlife Festival 2011. Expect big things.
Q: We recently read a study that says that company's that make people happy, are more successful. We think Sweetgreen falls into this category. Do you feel the Sweetgreen culture you are trying to create makes people happy and as a result directly effects your success?
A: Yes! We believe that our success is directly related to the happiness of our team. There is a quote that we use a lot internally - "Happiness is the new productivity". We truly believe this and encourage the "sweetlife" at all levels of the company. The reality is that more than anything we are in the PEOPLE business. If we take care of our people they will take care of our customers and help promote the sweetlife brand. We encourage this in a number of ways, including a yearly company picnic at an organic farm, a cool "Shades of Green" program where associates get cool things like Bikes, green chucks and awesome gear depending on their tenure, full health insurance for salaried employees, among other things. Most importantly, we treat our team members with respect and work really hard to have a fun (yet productive) company culture. Ping pong table and 5PM dance parties definitely help.
Q: Most everything in your restaurants is compostable. In fact, we just planted one of your menus in a pot in our office! Can you talk about your commitment to sustainability?
A: Sustainability is at the foundation of our brand and is a product of the most important aspect of the Sweetlife: Balance. It's all about finding win-win-win sustainability solutions that make sense economically, make sense for the environment and make sense for the brand. The sustainability platform that we have now is just a base, as we go forward we are looking to innovate in this field from the way we build our stores to the way we run our operations.
Q: A little bird told us that you have the Friday before Cochella (a music festival in Palm Springs, CA), sanctioned as an actual company holiday, is that true?
A: Yes. Coachella has been a special weekend in my life growing up (as well as some other Sweetgreen peeps) and with music being such an integral part of our company culture we thought it would be cool to give everyone in the corporate office the Friday before Coachella off so everyone can enjoy this amazing festival together.
Q: Is it too early to ask what the line up is looking like for your next Sweetlife festival happening April, 2011?
A: I can tell you that it is going to be bigger and better than last year! We started planning just days after the first one ended and have already started talking to some awesome acts - both international and local. Look forward to some cool announcements in the coming month.
Q: What's your personal Sweetflo flavor?
A: I like to keep it local - currently down with the watermelon, mint and agave.
Q: What is your favorite Thing to do in DC?
A: Ride my bike around town while listening to some good tunes.