Business Leaders

Nathaniel Ru Reinvents the Food Industry


Nathaniel Ru Says To Keep It Real

Nathaniel Ru, the co-founder of Sweetgreen, has an important tip to share with us: Everything you do should last longer than yourself. When he and his friends were studying at Georgetown University, they realized that there was a real dearth of good places that offered healthy food where they could eat. They started the Sweetgreen chain at the place where a tavern used to be located on a street near the university. They did this while they were still students in Georgetown. The landlord of the tavern, after some persuasion, decided to help them out. They enlisted the help of a baker and an architect. Now, the chain has locations all over the country, with a branch in every major city. They have become synonymous with great tasting, healthy, and local food.


Sweetgreen is not just a tasty place to eat. It also has a deeper goal and mission in place, according to Theresa Dold, head of marketing at Sweetgreen and another Georgetown graduate. They work from the outside in, meaning they try to find a need and then fulfill that need. They realize that people do not just care what you do, but how you do it.


Nathaniel Ru says that no matter how many branches Sweetgreen will have, one thing will always remain the same. Each branch must live up to the company’s core culture and values. At first, they had three values; eventually, it went up to twenty. They realized that it was too much and a little silly, so they cut it down to five core values. The first value is to always win. This means that not only should the company win, but everyone should win, including the customers and the surrounding community. Another value is to always think in the long term about what will happen in the future. The third value is keeping it real and always staying honest and authentic. Fourth is the sweet part in Sweetgreen. The fifth value is to always make an impact. The sweet part, their fourth value, is passed on to their employees. For example, they teach them to open the door for a mother who is struggling with children.


Nathaniel Ru is the co-founder of Sweetgreen. He started it while still in University. He studied at Georgetown. Sweetgreen hosts Sweetlife, the largest food and music festival in the country. Twenty thousand people attend, including the best cooks. He has a BS in Finance.


Nathaniel Ru
Nathaniel Ru was a Georgetown Senior when him and two other friends decided to build a company. None thought it would become as successful as it is today, but they had the plan and the determination to create something new. Nathaniel Ru based his business on bringing food to the people by being new and fresh. His ingredients were all farm grown in local markets with nothing gone to waste. All of his locations were picked with precision to where it would bring all forms of people as well as traffic no matter the time of day. Ru made sure to set up restaurants in chic neighborhoods to affluent and hip neighborhoods. Everyone had the chance to experience the food as well as learn about healthy living with the distribution of Sweetgreens throughout the US.

Nathaniel Ru did not only use food to bring the community together, but he used music and other companies. Ru had bands and local musicians play outside his stores on the street to draw attention and connect his food with the lively music. He also held classes such as yoga to teach people that it isn’t just the food that makes a life healthy. He wanted others to expand their knowledge and learn about the purpose of why he created Sweetgreens. In addition to small events, the inclusion of his employees were important in making the restaurant a friendly environment. The employees were picked carefully and were encouraged to treat the customer with care. Things such as coupons and umbrellas were placed around the restaurant as encouragement and a way to brighten their day.

Before Nathaniel Ru created his first restaurant, he wanted it to have values. He was careful in choosing what he wanted: a deeper purpose to opening up Sweetgreens. He and his partners created a list after much deliberation of five values that he wanted up on the wall in every restaurant. The first was “win, win, win.” He wanted his customer and employees, both, to be able to get something out of the company. The second was sustainability. He had an idea that everything should last longer than the person themselves, and their decisions should be for their benefit long term. The third is authenticity. Everything from the food to the actual product should be fresh and something new to the public. The fourth value is for the employees to have their own personal touch. 110% effort should be made by all employees resulting in giving the company a good name and drawing more crowds. The fifth and final value is the impact of Sweetgreens. Ru wanted his restaurant to make an impact in every community it was established. Sweetgreens would be a new and easy way to get started with the healthy lifestyle and open up new opportunities for others to join the cause.

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