"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.
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....