Sweetgreen, the Washington, D.C.-based salad chain, is moving its headquarters to Los Angeles as the company establishes a beachhead for its West Coast expansion and moves closer to suppliers.

The company still plans to keep offices in both Washington, D.C., as well as New York, and plans to continue adding locations on the East Coast.

Sweetgreen has opened three locations in Los Angeles in recent months, is planning its first location in Berkeley, Calif., and believes California is vital to its plans to go national.

“We want to be a national brand,” co-founder and co-CEO Nicolas Jammet said in an interview on Monday. “California is a really important part of our success in becoming a national brand.”

Fast-casual Sweetgreen has been a hot commodity in the restaurant industry in recent months. The company was founded in 2007 in Georgetown by a trio of recent graduates from Georgetown University. Sweetgreen has since grown to 39 locations.

It has received an influx of tens of millions of dollars in financing from big-name investors — notably Revolution Growth, the investment fund formed by AOL co-founder Steve Case. Other investors include Shake Shack Founder Danny Meyer, restaurateur Daniel Boulud and T. Rowe Price.

The company has built its reputation in part on its use of locally sourced and organic ingredients while hosting music events such as the annual Sweetlife Festival.

Jammet emphasized that DC and the Northeast continue to be vital markets for the company — and that this year should be the company’s biggest in that market.

Still, by moving headquarters to California the company will get close to a market known for its healthful dining. “California has set the tone for disruption in the food system,” Jammet said.

Some big organic suppliers are also located in California. Locating there enables the chain to establish relationships with those suppliers and get to know them as the company expands to more locations.

“We want to see ourselves as a leader in the food conversation,” Jammet said. “For us to understand the supply chain is really important.”

But much of what the company does is local and regional and thus Sweetgreen is planning to use a decentralized support structure, with offices in many markets, to keep close to those communities and local supply chains.

“It helps us to be closer to our guests in the field and in our communities,” he said. “We can make our decisions as close to the stores and to the guests as possible.

“If you look at the way Sweetgreen has grown, it’s not the type of company with a single, corporate headquarters. It really is about this decentralized leadership. All of our leaders spend a lot of time in the field, close to stores and close to guests, and we encourage everyone in the company to spend time in the field.”

The company’s use of local ingredients also requires people to be close to local suppliers and vendors.

“So much of what we do is localized,” Jammet said. “It really is about being close to each market and each community. We’re trying to build a different type of food company. We build a different supply chain in every city. So many of these decisions need to be made closer to suppliers.”

Contact Jonathan Maze at jonathan.maze@penton.com
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