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Sweetgreen returns its $10M PPP loan

The fast casual joins restaurant chains Kura Sushi and Shake Shack in returning the federal funds amid mounting criticism over the disbursement process.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Sweetgreen, a prolific fundraiser that was recently valued at $1.6 billion, revealed late Wednesday that it had returned the $10 million Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan it received last week.

The fast-casual chain joins others, including Kura Sushi USA and Shake Shack, that have returned the federal loans amid criticism over how the funds were distributed.

“At the end of last week, we were approved for a $10 million loan through the program,” Sweetgreen’s executives wrote on Medium. “That same day, we learned that the money had run out and so many small businesses and friends in the industry who needed it most did not receive any funds. Knowing that, we quickly made the decision to return the loan.”

Sweetgreen has raised nearly $479 million since 2009, including a $150 million cash infusion in September 2019 and a $200 million investment less than a year before that.

It said its revenue has been “dramatically affected” by the coronavirus crisis and that it intended to use the PPP loan money to pay its employees and hire back furloughed workers.

“If this crisis has taught us anything, it is that we are all in this together and we believe strongly that the restaurant community needs more support and resources to weather this storm,” the chain’s founders Nicolas Jammet, Jonathan Neman and Nathaniel Ru wrote.

Large chains that received PPP loans are facing mounting criticism. More than 150,000 people have signed a petition calling on Ruth’s Chris Steak House to return its $20 million in funding, with thousands more flooding the company’s social media channels with critical comments.

Seven publicly traded restaurant companies have received PPP loan money, including Potbelly Sandwich Shop and Fiesta Restaurant Group.

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