Inc. (USA) - - MONEY -

Sweet­green has more than 3,500 em­ploy­ees. About 95 per­cent work in the restau­rants, each of which av­er­ages 40 to 50 peo­ple.

THE CHAL­LENGE Despite Sweet­green’s “fast food” la­bel, “scratch cook­ing is a fairly la­bor­in­ten­sive busi­ness,” says COO and pres­i­dent Karen Kel­ley. “Con­sider the amount of veg­etable prep, roast­ing, cook­ing, and falafel-mak­ing that goes through our restau­rants. The big­gest grow­ing pain is mak­ing sure we find the right peo­ple.”

THE SO­LU­TION The past few years have brought in­creased scru­tiny, and reg­u­la­tions, to fast­food wages. (Sweet­green in­vestor Danny Meyer is also a big voice for pay­ing fair wages in the restau­rant in­dus­try.) Kel­ley says that Sweet­green has al­ways paid above the min­i­mum wage; in June, the com­pany in­creased base pay in some mar­kets by more than 20 per­cent. In New York City, where the min­i­mum fast-food wage was raised to $12 an hour last year, Sweet­green now starts en­try-level work­ers at $12.50 to $13.50 an hour. Head coaches, Sweet­green’s gen­eral man­agers, start on av­er­age at $60,000 a year plus a bonus. Kel­ley says Sweet­green also now spends more time train­ing em­ploy­ees and gives them more op­por­tu­ni­ties to move up.

THE PAY­OFF Within the past year, 35 per­cent of Sweet­green’s restau­rant man­agers have been em­ploy­ees who were in­ter­nally pro­moted. Nine of those man­agers started off in en­try-level Sweet­green po­si­tions, and over­all eight of the com­pany’s 15 “area lead­ers,” or re­gional man­agers, have come up through Sweet­green’s ranks.

FI­NAL PREP In Brook­lyn, Sweet­green em­ploy­ees Dar­ren Ma­habir (bot­tom photo, left) and Meesh Her­nan­dez (right) peel, chop, and prep the raw in­gre­di­ents for Sweet­green sal­ads. Top left: Crum­bled goat cheese and shred­ded greens. Top right: Roasted trout...

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