Nathaniel Ru and his friends have taken an unlikely approach to the restaurant business. They started their restaurant, sweetgreen, during their senior year at Georgetown University because they wanted a place to eat that would be fun, easy, and healthy, all rolled into one package.

Their heart was set on an old tavern owned by a landlady down the street. It took a lot of time and persuasion, but eventually she saw something in the three young college students and the restaurant sweetgreen, spelled in all lowercase letters, was born. Within six years, the restaurant has blossomed into a 21-store chain that has never gone far from its homestyle roots.

Sweetgreen was not meant to be like other restaurants. For one thing, Nathaniel Ru and his friends had never run a restaurant before. They were business students, not restauranteurs. But they had inspiration from other businesses like Apple, businesses that focused on a core ideal and built outward from that ideal into a major enterprise.

Even as sweetgreen has expanded into other cities of the Northeast, it still retains a farm-to-table philosophy and a fixation on health for the mind, body and even the spirit. Some restaurants host yoga sessions, and the Saturday and Sunday music sessions at the new and larger DC location are a hot draw for their customers. Learn more about Nathaniel Ru: and

Music and food have an emotional connection for many people. As Nathaniel Ru said when speaking at a recent conference, both have a soothing, emotionally fulfilling drive within us. And so sweetlife, a regional music festival centered around healthy eating and fun music, was born.

Even the way customers pay feeds back into the lifestyle mentality. When customers pay using the app, they can start to contribute to the restaurants healthy food donations for local schools, which deepens the connections between the customer, the restaurant, and its community.

Nathaniel Ru has even been with sweetgreen as they have revolutionized sourcing the foods that they eat. During a visit with a local farmer they were purchasing broccoli from, he asked the farmer about the leaves that they saw.

The farmer told Ru that even though the leaves were both edible and healthy, they usually tilled them back into the ground because people did not want to eat broccoli leaves. Now, Ru said, sweetgreen will add in broccoli leaves to show people that there are more options than kale for healthy greens.