Fast-casual salad restaurant Sweetgreen was dreamed up about seven years ago by three students at Georgetown University. Now, as the homegrown chain makes a push to expand nationally, it is looking for a vice president of development to play a key role in spearheading those efforts.
Jonathan Neman, one of Sweetgreen’s co-founders, chatted with Capital Business about the job and the kind of person who might be right for it. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
This person will be part of Sweetgreen’s executive team. What will he or she oversee?
I see four major functions falling under this role. One is development, really innovating on what is the Sweetgreen experience. The second would be managing the real estate pipeline, leading a team to find new locations, both in current and new markets. The third is leading a design team to design the stores in a very innovative way that reflects our brand values. And lastly, is overseeing the construction of stores. So it’s a huge role. Design and real estate and experience, that is so much of the soul of the company.
That is a big tent. Do you want someone who has specialized in one of those channels? Or someone with more general experience?
We need someone that has a broad background in terms of executive capabilities. It’s very hard to find someone who can marry this idea of development, prototyping in design, but also real estate and construction. They’re all different expertises, so the candidate will probably have a specialty in a couple of them, and a great understanding of all of them as a whole.
We’re creating a lifestyle brand, so we want someone who can understand all of those things with that filter. With design, I think it’s obvious how that reflects your brand. But I don’t think everybody always thinks about how much real estate affects your brand. Where you go, in what order, at what speed, tells a lot about your brand.
So is it important to have a food and beverage background?
Someone who has a food and beverage background is obviously great. It’s very specific to what we’re doing. Someone with multi-unit retail development experience would also work.
What kind of personality would be the best fit for the role?
We describe our culture as happy, humble and hard-working. So someone who definitely displays all of those three traits is really important.
How you are conducting the search?
We’re not working with a recruiter currently. We’re working through our own networks, using LinkedIn and social media. We’ve seen some great candidates, but have not found the one quite yet.