Ah, Sweetgreen. This little situation you're in? This is what happens when good intentions meet the Internet.
Oh, yeah, and Sriracha. And bacon.
On Tuesday, the salad chain, founded in Washington and on its way to nationwide domination, dared to announce that it had eliminated these two foods with a cult (or not so cult) following from its menu.
"We view our menu through this lens of constant evolution and improvement," said Nicolas Jammet, who opened Sweetgreen in 2007 with Nathaniel Ru and Jonathan Neman when all three were freshly minted Georgetown University graduates.
Dubbing the changes "Healthy 2.0," which accompany a new summer menu, the chain zeroed in on Sriracha as part of an effort to root out hidden sugars in its offerings, including beverages. For the record, the ubiquitous Huy Fong Sriracha has 1 gram of sugar per 5-gram teaspoon, a bit less than ketchup. (Sweetgreen is also in the midst of promoting its Make America Healthy Again campaign, the name of which has prompted more Internet grumbling.)
"Sriracha is delicious, and we love it," Jammet said. The sauce was used in Sweetgreen's signature Spicy Sabzi bowl and available for customers to add to their dishes, too. A new source of heat: spicy chili flakes.
The Sriracha was also not something Sweetgreen was making in-house, another strike against it.
Bacon -- "something we've served since day one," Jammet said -- is similarly a not-from-scratch item (with a much-debated health track record), not to mention an offering that required additional time and resources to cook. Not everyone loves the smell of bacon, Jammet pointed out.
With bacon gone, other proteins, or, rather, "proteins" in the fast-casual-centerpiece sense of the word, are in: roasted steelhead (trout) and a warm portobello mix.
"We know that change in general can be uncomfortable for some guests that come a lot," Jammet said. The chain floated a trial balloon of the menu changes at its Dupont Circle location, which houses the chain's test kitchen.
"Customers didn't seem to mind or notice" the alterations, Jammet said, or if they did, they were mostly understanding once the rationale was explained.
The Internet, at least some of it, had other feelings.
@sweetgreen in your bid to make America healthy again by cutting out bacon and sriracha, you forgot most of your cheeses and dressing.
— Christian Diaz (@MonkeyinMadras) May 25, 2016
.@sweetgreen your decision to do away with bacon is deplorable. i used to get lunch from you 1-2X a week. i will not be back.
— Alexander Diegel (@AlexanderDiegel) May 25, 2016
I think I’ve been to sweetgreen once in my life, but I will never go again b/c they removed bacon AND sriracha from the menu!
— Taylor (@HokieTay) May 25, 2016
— Matt Soleyn (@MattSoleyn) May 25, 2016
@sweetgreen bacon free? "we're the biggest soapbox there is" says Chef Stebner?! About 30 restaurants, right? Not bigger than bacon, bud.
— jason rauschelbach (@jasonrausch) May 24, 2016
Of course, these are not the first big changes Sweetgreen has ever made. It no longer serves frozen yogurt, which was part of its original model, or wraps, "if anyone remembers," Jammet said.
But would we find Sriracha if we opened Jammet's home refrigerator? He laughed and cited his busy travel schedule. "My fridge tends to be a little empty," he said. (You might, however, find condiment jars from Sir Kensington's, where his twin brother works.)
Still, "We're not telling people not to eat it," Jammet said of the chili sauce.
So, BYO Sriracha keychain?
As to bacon, well....