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The Power List 2017: Nicolas Jammet, Jonathan Neman and Nathaniel Ru

NRN presents The Power List 2017, our fourth annual list of the most powerful people in foodservice. The Top 10 on the list are leading the restaurant industry today, and shaping its future.

Since co-founders Nicolas Jammet, Jonathan Neman and Nathaniel Ru opened the first Sweetgreen location in 2007, the company has changed the way diners — particularly Millennial diners — perceive chain restaurants. 

The brand’s focus on sustainable ingredients and fresh foods, combined with its innovative use of technology and social media campaigns, showcases an acute understanding of what resonates with a younger generation. Sweetgreen’s connection with Millennials has kept the brand ahead of competitors and a hot commodity to investors. In recent years, the 63-unit chain has received $95 million in total investments. 

The chain invests big in technology, building an in-house development team to work on its app, which was designed to keep lines moving by optimizing order flow and integrating mobile ordering, payment and a rewards program. As of last summer, 21 percent of in-store purchases were completed using the app. 

“We believe that great technology enhances real-life experiences. It does not replace true human connections,” Neman said. “We wanted to create a digital platform that mirrors the in-store experience, builds a foundation for future innovation and allows us to serve more people better food.”

Recently, Sweetgreen began offering one-on-one in-store ordering in which one staff member prepares the entire salad — rethinking the traditional fast-casual assembly line — to improve order accuracy and quality. It may sound simple, but it’s just the kind of idea from Ru, Neman and Jammet that helped rocket Sweetgreen to popularity. 

The chain also repositioned itself physically for West Coast growth, moving its headquarters from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles early last year.

“We want to be a national brand,” Jammet told NRN at the time. “California is a really important part of our success in becoming a national brand.”

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