'In a Weird Way We Were Very Well Positioned for This': Sweetgreen Reopens Stores and Brings Back Workers

Ben Bergman

Ben Bergman is the newsroom's senior finance reporter. Previously he was a senior business reporter and host at KPCC, a senior producer at Gimlet Media, a producer at NPR's Morning Edition, and produced two investigative documentaries for KCET. He has been a frequent on-air contributor to business coverage on NPR and Marketplace and has written for The New York Times and Columbia Journalism Review. Ben was a 2017-2018 Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Economic and Business Journalism at Columbia Business School. In his free time, he enjoys skiing, playing poker, and cheering on The Seattle Seahawks.

'In a Weird Way We Were Very Well Positioned for This': Sweetgreen Reopens Stores and Brings Back Workers

After protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd prompted Sweetgreen to close most of the locations it hadn't yet shuttered because of the coronavirus, the Culver City-based fast casual chain said Tuesday that it's on the rebound.

CEO Jonathan Neman announced the company has reopened most of its restaurants and rehired some of the 2,000 workers that it furloughed.

"We've brought back half of employees," Neman said at an Axios forum. "I'm confident we can bring back the other half soon."


During the pandemic, Sweetgreen transitioned to an all-delivery and pickup model. Even before the twin crises struck, about 55% of its orders were made online. "We have been able to get back a lot of our business because in a weird way we were very well positioned for this," said Neman.

Without elaborating, Neman revealed that the company ended an exclusive contract with Uber Eats that it signed last year. "Given all that's gone on we have made the decision to be non-exclusive partners," he said.

Neman said he had no second thoughts about returning a $10 million Payroll Protection Program loan the company was approved for in April, even though Sweetgreen had to furlough the 2,000 store employees and layoff 10% of the 350 staffers at its Culver City headquarters. And as it turns out, the PPP program is now flush with cash, as more than $130 billion has gone unspent in the last month.

"I do not regret the decision," said Neman. "Hopefully that money can be used for companies and jobs that better need it."

Since Neman co-founded the company in 2007, Sweetgreen has been on a lofty trajectory that values it more like a tech company than a restaurant chain. Last year, it raised $150 million of Series I venture funding at a $1.45 billion pre-money valuation, according to Pitchbook.

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Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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LA Tech ‘Moves’: HyperDraft Taps LegalZoom Exec

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

LA Tech ‘Moves’: HyperDraft Taps LegalZoom Exec
Photo by James Opas | Modified by Joshua Letona

“Moves,” our roundup of job changes in L.A. tech, is presented by Interchange.LA, dot.LA's recruiting and career platform connecting Southern California's most exciting companies with top tech talent. Create a free Interchange.LA profile here—and if you're looking for ways to supercharge your recruiting efforts, find out more about Interchange.LA's white-glove recruiting service by emailing Sharmineh O’Farrill Lewis (sharmineh@dot.la). Please send job changes and personnel moves to moves@dot.la.

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