• 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 from Pacifc Seafood.
• WHERE IT ALL
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 labor-intensive 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
fnd the right people.”
THE SOLUTION The past few years have brought
increased scrutiny, and regulations, to fast-food 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 opportuni-
ties 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 of
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.