Sweetgreen: Building Intimacy At Scale
In the lead-up to our PSFK 2017 conference, we look back at key speakers from past years. Co-Founder emphasizes the importance of creating human connections while building a brand
Nathaniel Ru is fixated on sweetgreen’s effort to maintain intimacy with customers within a rapidly growing company. As the Co-Founder and Co-CEO of a company dedicated to healthy eating and innovation, Ru explained the premise of the company and its goals during his talk at our PSFK 2016 conference in New York City.
“We wanted to create a company and brand around human connection,” he explains. He went to compound his belief that food and eating are social experiences that need to be cultivated.
Ru acknowledges that the path of a fast-growing chain can easily lead to a generic brand. To avoid this problem, it is essential to ensure that each customer has a positively unique and tailored experience. He tells the audience on how to create a story that appeals to customers. The customer’s experience is reliant on building intimacy at scale. Three principles guide this idea:
- Embrace evolution with modular design – This means “following Mother Nature’s lead,” Ru states. For sweetgreen, this equates to curating a seasonal menu that changes five times a year to allow for flexibility and innovation. Also, this idea is reflected in each individual store built. Menu boards are flexible, music is different by location and a store’s layout is designed to show off the food being served.
- Create stories with style and substance – “Stories are the currency for human connection.” Sweetgreen is an intersection of style and substance. A great story has a rational foundation and an emotional voice.
- Tech-enhanced, not tech-dependent – Sweetgreen is focused on innovation but careful with technology because it may threaten the focus on human connection. Technology should be utilized to enhance, not undermine the human experience.
Weaving the human narrative with technology and design is what allows sweetgreen to establish itself as not just a chain restaurant, but a brand with a mission. The desire to consistently innovate the brand while maintaining its foundation is strategic and essential. This is the way to curate a customer’s experience and reiterate the brand’s mission to provide great food and strengthen the bonds between humans.