The owners of Sweetgreen had only just graduated from Georgetown University when they started selling salads at a tiny shop near campus in 2007. Nearly a decade and a half later, their company has grown to 140 locations nationwide and has more than 5,000 employees. And today, Sweetgreen goes public on the New York Stock Exchange with a market valuation of more than $5.5 billion.
Sweetgreen pioneered a tech-savvy, lifestyle-driven, sustainability-touting business model that an entire generation of fast-casual restaurants has attempted to replicate. Its $14 salads have become a cultural signifier for millennial yupsters.
Still, Sweetgreen’s road to success hasn’t been without bumps—and controversy. The company has been accused of appropriating hip hop culture while opening locations in predominantly wealthy white enclaves. It axed its cashless policy a couple years ago, following criticism that the practice discriminates against low-income patrons and others who don’t have access to banks or credit cards
A few months ago, CEO Jonathan Neman came under fire for a LinkedIn post in which he said that “no vaccine nor mask will save us” from Covid, blamed the severity of the pandemic on obese and overweight people, and suggested the solution was healthier eating. After public backlash, Neman apologized, saying that “salads alone are not going to solve this.”
Meanwhile, according Fortune and Axios, Sweetgreen’s IPO filings have revealed the company wasn’t actually profitable even when it repeatedly claimed it was. But as it hit the stock market today, Sweetgreen raised $364 million in its IPO, selling 13 million shares.