Watch out, Chipotle: a fresh fast-casual is coming for the healthy eating throne.
Sweetgreen, a seasonal salad chain, announced on Wednesday that the company secured $18.5 million in funding. VC firm Revolution Growth led the investment, which also included participation from Stonyfield Farm founder Gary Hirshberg, Behance’s CEO Scott Belsky, restaurateur Daniel Boulud and Danny Meyer, the founder of Shake Shack and a number of other restaurants.
Revolution Growth and Hirshberg have both previously invested in the chain, and Sweetgreen sells fro-yo made using organic Stonyfield yogurt in select locations.
“Sweetgreen is quickly emerging as the place of choice for people looking for fresh, seasonal, and locally sourced food and in the process is building a lifestyle brand with meaning and purpose," Steve Case, the former CEO of AOL, billionaire investor and Revolution Growth partner, said in a statement. “We look forward to continuing this journey as Sweetgreen continues to expand on the East Coast, and prepares to open in California next year."
Sweetgreen received its first major investment from Revolution Growth in December 2013, with $22 million in funding and Case joining the board. Since that time, the Washington, D.C.-based company has opened five new stores in New York City, Boston and Philadelphia, with plans to open two more New York stores before the end of the year. Sweetgreen additionally recently announced plans to open two Los Angeles locations in early 2015 for a total of 31 stores.
Also on the menu: a new high-tech ordering system. About a fourth of Sweetgreen's transactions are already made through the chain's app, and the company plans to roll out a new mobile-optimized online ordering system at all locations by the end of the year.
Sweetgreen founders Nicolas Jammet, Jonathan Neman and Nathaniel Ru opened their first shop in 2007, just three months after graduating Georgetown University. Since the beginning, the company has focused on social responsibility, forming relationships with local farms and emphasizing healthy and sustainable eating. The company says that in addition to funding expansion, optimizing its supply chain and tech, the $18.5 million will be put towards its "Sweetgreen in Schools" program that currently reaches 3,000 students across 14 different locations. The program's focus in on educating children about healthy food habits and exercise.
“The words ‘seasonality’ and ‘fast food’ are rarely used together, but at Sweetgreen, we believe that the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive – it just takes a commitment to standing behind our food ethos and working with farmers that share the same values," Jammet said in a statement.