Jonathan Neman founded sweetgreen with his two college roommates. Now the chopped salad chain is taking on the Boston market, with locations in Fort Point and Back Bay. The newest store is opening in Chestnut Hill this week. I asked Jonathan about the philanthropic philosophy behind the business, which goes beyond just making healthy lunches.

Build-your-own salad shops have been around for years. What makes sweetgreen different?

We take pride in being more than a salad shop. We’re more of a farm-to-table kitchen and believe it is possible to create “food that fits”—your values, your budget, your tastes, your imagination and your community. At sweetgreen, we are all about creating an experience for our customer with quality local ingredients, a friendly and welcoming staffing, and great music. We like to consider ourselves a destination rather than a lunchtime convenience. We believe in an aspirational lifestyle around creating unusual combinations that inspires someone to live their best life. 

If I had read that a healthy salad shop was founded by three college roommates, I might have assumed those three were women. Have you run into any surprising pushback because of your gender?

I think eating well and living a healthy lifestyle is something that appeals to both men and women. When it comes down to it, it’s all about providing healthy and delicious food for everyone.

I noticed your customers use less cash and reach for their smartphones to pay. Was this a conscious decision to move away from paper currency?

Yes; we have been promoting our sweetgreen app that allows you to “pay it forward.” You earn rewards and can achieve different status levels to get cool perks, like VIP tickets to sweetlife, our annual music and food festival. We also donate one percent of all payments processed in the app to our official charity partner, FoodCorps, which is helping us expand sweetgreen in schools, a program we launched to introduce kids to the benefits of nutritious eating and sustainability.

GQ featured you and your co-founder/roommate’s “bachelor pad.” How long did you clean before the camera crew arrived?

We keep our place pretty clean but definitely did a quick tidying up the day before the shoot to make sure everything was photo-ready!

Four Questions is a weekly interview column featuring interesting people connected with the Greater Boston Jewish community. Find past columns here. Have an idea of someone we should interview? Email Molly!

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