Trendy salad chain Sweetgreen is about to expand its New York presence. Three of the city's seven locations opened in the last few months, and at least three more locations are planned in 2016, in Greenwich Village at 226 Bleecker St., in FiDi at 67 Wall St., and on the Upper East Side at 1500 Third Ave. In the next two years, the company plans to open even more in New York — particularly in neighborhoods that they consider "food deserts," says Karen Kelley, president and chief operating officer of Sweetgreen. "What’s really important to us is that we make healthy food accessible," Kelley says.
Of course, with new openings in affluent neighborhoods like Greenwich Village, the company isn't exactly taking on the impoverished areas that are traditionally considered food deserts, where grocery produce options are limited. But Sweetgreen still sees its openings as providing convenient access to healthy dining in areas where it's not as accessible, Kelley says. "It’s a different twist on the idea of a food desert," she says. "You may have multiple places to eat, but not really healthy, locally sourced ingredients and less processed foods." She pointed to a new Sweetgreen near Columbia University, a location that they think is successful because of a dearth of green options for students, and to the NoMad location, where the long lines signify the demand for healthy food.
It's not clear what neighborhoods the popular salad chain will open in next, and it may be a while before Sweetgreen opens in any true food deserts. But with a goal of "building healthier communities," the company isn't ruling out targeting less affluent areas eventually, too. Kelley pointed to Whole Foods, which has matured enough to start expanding to a wider base. "We’re in our toddler growth phase," Kelley says. "We’re not an infant anymore. We’re a national brand. We’re scaling and growing. As the brand evolves, we’ll be expanding in our real estate footprint."