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Sweetgreen IPO: Buzzy salad chain will test investors’ appetite for food stocks in NYSE debut

Following Portillo’s, Dutch Bros Coffee, and First Watch, it’s the latest food-and-beverage spot to tap the stock market this year.

Sweetgreen IPO: Buzzy salad chain will test investors’ appetite for food stocks in NYSE debut
[Source Images: Loyish_2/iStock; greenaperture/iStock]

Sweetgreen has filed for a public debut on the New York Stock Exchange.

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In the company’s IPO prospectus, the buzzy salad chain reported a strong bounce-back from COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns. Sales were battered in 2020 but regrew 21% in the first 9 months of 2021. Its net losses narrowed to $87 million this year to date, from $100 million during the same period last year.

Founded in 2007, the Los Angeles-based Sweetgreen has enjoyed “cool” status in the world of fast-casual restaurants, bolstered by high-profile partnerships with such celebrities as top chef David Chang and tennis star Naomi Osaka. It’s also the latest food-and-beverage spot to tap the public market this year. Just last week, Chicago hot dog joint Portillo’s kicked off trading on the Nasdaq; last month, cult-favorite coffee shop Dutch Bros hit the Big Board; and this month, breakfast-cafe chain First Watch made its debut.

Sweetgreen has, however, had its share of misses in recent times. In September, its cofounder Jonathan Neman published a LinkedIn post blaming obesity, in part, for the global pandemic, writing that “no vaccine nor mask will save us” and advocating for taxes on refined sugar and processed foods. (Sweetgreen is, of course, advertised as a healthy eats go-to.) Neman’s post drew swift backlash, and was deleted the following day.

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But in a promising sign, the market has shown great appetite for food stocks: Portillo’s is up 15% since opening and Dutch Bros is up 88%.

Sweetgreen currently runs 140 locations in 13 U.S. states, and its prospectus says it hopes to double its footprint in the next few years. In August, it revealed a new investment in digital automation with its purchase of Boston-based Spyce, a maker of robotic kitchen tech. Heavily venture capital-backed, Sweetgreen’s most recent funding round valued the company at roughly $1.8 billion.

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