'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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Illumix Founder Kirin Sinha On Using Math to Inform Creative Thinking

Yasmin Nouri

Yasmin is the host of the "Behind Her Empire" podcast, focused on highlighting self-made women leaders and entrepreneurs and how they tackle their career, money, family and life.

Each episode covers their unique hero's journey and what it really takes to build an empire with key lessons learned along the way. The goal of the series is to empower you to see what's possible & inspire you to create financial freedom in your own life.

Illumix Founder Kirin Sinha
Photo courtesy of Illumix

Kirin Sinha wanted to be a dancer. When injury dashed that dream, she turned to her other passion: math.

On this week’s episode of the Behind Her Empire podcast, host Yasmin Nouri talks with the founder and CEO of augmented reality (AR) technology and media platform Illumix.

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Kristin Snyder

Kristin Snyder is an editorial intern for dot.la. She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.

Rael Raises $35M To Grow Its Organic Feminine Care Brand
Courtesy of Rael

Rael, a Buena Park-based organic feminine care and beauty brand, has raised $35 million in a Series B funding round, the company announced Wednesday.

The funding was led by the venture arms of two Asian companies: Japanese gaming firm Colopl’s Colopl Next and South Korean conglomerate Shinsegae Group’s Signite Partners. Aarden Partners and ST Capital also participated, as did existing investors Mirae Asset and Unilever Ventures.

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E-Scooter Companies Are Quietly Changing Their Low-Income Programs in LA

Maylin Tu
Maylin Tu is a freelance writer who lives in L.A. She writes about scooters, bikes and micro-mobility. Find her hovering by the cheese at your next local tech mixer.
E-Scooter Companies Are Quietly Changing Their Low-Income Programs in LA
Photo by Maylin Tu

When Lime launched in Los Angeles in 2018, the company offered five free rides per day to low-income riders, so long as they were under 30 minutes each.

But in early May, that changed. Rides under 30 minutes now cost low-income Angelenos a flat rate of $1.25. As for the five free rides per day, that program ended December 2021 and was replaced by a rate of $0.50 fee to unlock e-scooters, plus $0.07 per minute (and tax).

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