Sweetgreen secures $18M to go west

Farm-to-table healthy restaurant chain Sweetgreen Inc. is expanding to the West Coast and has raised $18.5 million from Revolution Growth and others to do it.

The Series E round, which brings total outside funding to $57.5 million, is the latest in a string of venture investments in the food and beverage sector. Like investors in The Melt Inc., Blue Bottle Coffee Inc. and others, Sweetgreen backers believe it has the potential to grow into a large publicly traded company like Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., PF Chang’s Inc. or Jamba Juice Co.

“Ten years ago, I don’t think anyone would have imagined a burrito place in Denver [Chipotle] would be a company with a $20 billion market cap. I think there’s an opportunity for Sweetgreen to follow in their footsteps,” said Steve Case, co-founder of Revolution Growth. “Its success will depend on getting millions of people to fall in love with it and make it a regular part of their day.”

To that end, company founders are working to turn the restaurant into a lifestyle brand.

The company sponsors healthy eating education for schools, donating 1% of its profits to send its own experts into classrooms and bring students into the restaurants. So far, more than 2,000 students have gone through the program, which teaches about nutrition and healthy choices through rap songs and other fun methods.

The company also sponsors music festivals, rewards customers with passes to yoga and other exercise classes near Sweetgreen restaurants, and hosts charity events tied to new store openings.

“Our mission at Sweetgreen is to change the way people eat and by that, how they live,” Sweetgreen co-founder and co-CEO Jonathan Neman said. “We are [providing] healthy and delicious food in a great atmosphere and you can get out of there for about $10.”

Mr. Case, who is on the Sweetgreen board and led the previous round a little less than a year ago, said along with expanding the number of stores, the funding will be used to continue improving both the supply chain technology with local farms and consumer-facing mobile apps.

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