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National Salad Chain Sweetgreen Returns $10 Million Federal Small Business Loan

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The PPP loan giveback joins similar moves from Shake Shack and Kura Sushi

Sweetgreen Century City
Sweetgreen Century City, Los Angeles
Courtesy Sweetgreen
Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

Los Angeles-based national salad chain Sweetgreen has become the latest high-profile company to return its federally subsidized loan from the Paycheck Protection Program, otherwise known as PPP. Sweetgreen had secured $10 million, but in the face of mounting criticism that the program only provided funds to large-scale companies like Ruth’s Chris and Potbelly Sandwiches, Sweetgreen’s management has decided to return the funds to the general pool. Others like Shake Shack and Kura Sushi have done the same.

In a Medium post entitled “Why We Decided to Return our PPP Loan,” co-founders Jonathan Neman, Nicolas Jammet, and Nathaniel Ru say:

At the end of last week, we were approved for a $10M loan through the program. That same day, we learned that the money had run out and so many small businesses and friends in the industry who needed it most did not receive any funds. Knowing that, we quickly made the decision to return the loan.

Like all restaurants, sweetgreen’s revenue has been dramatically affected during this unprecedented time. When we applied for the SBA loan, our goal was to use it as it was intended — to take care of our restaurant teams during this crisis. 100% of the loan was going to be used to pay the people in our restaurants and hire back furloughed team members faster.

Sweetgreen was valued back in 2018 at $1 billion, and has locations across the country. The company first began selling sub-$20 fast casual salad bowls in the Washington, D.C. area, but moved its headquarters to Culver City a few years ago.

A second round of PPP funding from the federal government is expected to pass through Congress today, which would offer another $310 billion for businesses, including many earmarked specifically for small operators.


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