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Sweetgreen keeps things fresh with Google Apps

Posted by Nathaniel Ru, Co-Founder, Sweetgreen

Editor's note: In honor of National Small Business Week, we'll be sharing stories about small businesses that have gone Google. Today’s guest blogger is Nathaniel Ru, Co-Founder of Sweetgreen, a retail food chain focused on making healthy eating easier. See what other organizations that have gone Google have to say.

Sweetgreen started as an idea I had with two of my friends, now my co-founders, while we were studying business at Georgetown University. We were frustrated by the lack of healthy eateries in Washington, D.C. and wanted to make eating healthy an affordable and easy option, especially on our undergrad budgets. We decided to make it happen ourselves, and launched our first Sweetgreen restaurant shortly after graduating in 2007.

We sell local and organic food, but we stand for a lifestyle: being healthy and environmentally conscious while creating great experiences around food. All of our Sweetgreen restaurants are designed with reclaimed materials, use biodegradable utensils, and compost waste. Our wooden tables and seats are made from pre-1980s bowling alleys, and our bowls, cutlery and cups are all 100% plant-based.

Google Apps allows us to be more than a traditional brick and mortar restaurant. We’re constantly evolving, changing and growing, and we realized early on that we needed our technology to be as flexible as the ingredients on our menu. We’re growing quickly - we’re opening two new markets this year - and we need technology that can grow with us.

We change our menu every month to highlight seasonal ingredients and keep things fresh. Our customers are generally curious about what they’re eating and what farm the ingredients come from, so we send talking points to the store managers. Google Sheets and Docs make this all happen for us. We have a running spreadsheet with the local ingredients and plan out each month in advance. The spreadsheet is then turned into a newsletter, and the great thing about Google is throughout that process every group has a chance to jump in and contribute. Once it’s completed, we send the newsletter out to our stores.

We also use Google Drive, which allows us to collaborate between departments. Marketing, Finance and HR can all look at one document at the same time, add their thoughts, and keep track of the changes each person makes along the way with revision history. It makes transparent communication easy, especially when we’re moving really fast (which is always).

Five years after the first seed was planted for this idea, we have more than 400 employees and 17 restaurants in four cities. At Sweetgreen, we believe in creating experiences that go beyond the transaction, and Google Apps has helped make that possible.