WHERE IT ALL COMES TOGETHER
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...