The Rules of Sweetgreen

Are you prepared?



Do you Sweetgreen? It’s a new habit for me. I held off for years before I started doing it, and by doing it, I mean scheduling desk salad lunches the way you’d schedule a 4 p.m. “touchbase” at work, or a 9 a.m. tooth cleaning at your dentist.

(Sweetgreen-ing is such an entirely American phenomenon. It’s really lunch as a problem to be solved rather than something to enjoy and savor.)

Anyway, I held off and I held off and then, I finally buckled thanks to a bulletproof combination of relative ease, low cost, healthiness and proximity. As of this writing, I’ve Sweetgreened 13 work lunches over the past month. “Welcome back, Leslie,” the site says. It has my credit card stored, it knows my preferred location and past order. Like Amazon, it’s just so easy. The chain has more than 50 locations nationwide, and a handful more are coming. Soon it will be everywhere.

The first rule of Sweetgreen is: You must plan your Sweetgreen approach in advance. Do not just roll on up to Sweetgreen when you’ve reached peak hunger. Do not stroll over there circa 1:30 p.m. when you maybe had a chia pudding for breakfast and you’ve reached the point of caffeine-addled stomach emptiness where everything is overly urgent and you don’t know whether to laugh or cry and is your hand shaking a little? Is your eye twitching?

Because if you wait too long, you will not be able to handle Sweetgreen. Everyone and their sister is in line ahead of you. The queue snakes to and fro around barriers like the security line at the airport that one time you almost missed your flight at LaGuardia. People are calmly tapping away at their cell phones like this is all well and good and normal, but it’s too late for you. You eject, and spin around to find yourself standing out on the street corner, cold and even more desperate than you were before. If this was Super Mario Bros., you’d be sent back to level one. Fail.

The second rule of Sweetgreen is: If you are going to go in person, be on the ball and know your order. Do not get to the front and stand there stumped. That’s like standing on an escalator on the left side, which is always the side that people walk up. No one has time for that. Approximately 10,000 people need to eat mixed salad on a daily basis, and they are all standing behind you right now. Make up your goddamn mind. Organic arugula, shredded kale, chopped romaine — it’s all the same, right? It’s all green chum in your belly. I’m sorry, did you just…ask a question? No. This is not the time for questions. Steelhead is trout! *Tap, tap, tap.* That’s my foot, I’m actually tapping right now in frustration-panic. I might tap dance right out of here before someone slops my hot chickpeas into my salad bowl.

Plan out your attack and know your order in advance — those are the main two rules. Oh, and bring a debit or credit card if your Sweetgreen is one of the locations that is “experimenting” with going cashless, because in the dystopian future, our overlords will have all our salad preferences cataloged.

If you’ve made it this far down the page, you should know that there are more tenets of Sweetgreen to abide by — all sourced from true experts, aka other people in the Man Repeller offices whose habits are more ingrained than mine — but I cannot dig into all of them right now. I’m so, so hungry, and I’ve missed my morning salad order window. Now it’s not going to be ready until ~1:30 p.m., or even later. I have no idea how I will make it ’til then. Someone, please, retrieve it from the shelf for me. I have listed the pro-level rules below; feel free to add yours in the comments.

1. Get the app and utilize the rewards system.
2. Befriend the workers there because a.) they are really nice and b.) if you get to know them they are much more likely to give you more generous toppings.
3. On that toppings tip: Pause in-between listing toppings to give them time to decide to give you a little extra of previously listed topping.
4. The pesto vinaigrette is really delicious but really salty.
5. The cashew dressing is good but has an aftertaste where it’s best if you leave to “work from home” right after eating, if you catch my drift.
6. Not every location gets every seasonal ingredient (like in the summer when jicama just never arrived).
7. The mushrooms are only good when they are a dark color. Don’t get the mushrooms if they look “pale.” This is also a general rule of salad thumb.
8. Get a grain bowl if the kale looks watery. If the kale IS watery and you complain, they are likely to refund you.
9. The pears are ALWAYS hard so if you like soft pears, skip.
10. If the apples are McIntosh instead of Gala, skip.
11. This is an obvious one, but they won’t mix the dressing in if you order ahead and it’s a total disaster doing it yourself, so just wait in line. Just do the work. You’ll either spend more time mixing it in for yourself at your desk after or you’ll use up all of the dressing on the toppings which is not the best economical use of dressing OR toppings.
12. Another obvious one but Monday through Wednesday is busiest and Thursday and Friday are usually quiet. Monday through Wednesday = apologizing to your body for the weekend via kale. Like the gym on January 2nd.

Photo via iStock.

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  • Quinn Halman

    I have slight shame in admitting that I have thought about the pesto vinaigrette everyday since my last Sweetgreen but I know they love me back because the day the Nolita location went cash free I got a free salad.

    • Yvonne Dunlevie

      So you’re saying you usually pay for salads in ca$h??!!

      • Quinn Halman

        When I’m not in my home country and want to avoid extra conversation fees from my bank account to Sweetgreen, yeah, Q$ comes alive

    • Amelia Diamond

      I love that stupid pesto dressing

  • Christel Michelle

    This was so funny and so relatable. I love Sweetgreen. Anybody who doesn’t love SG is crazy and not allowed to be my friend. Favorite quote in this article: “Do not stroll over there circa 1:30 p.m. when you maybe had a chia pudding for breakfast and you’ve reached the point of caffeine-addled stomach emptiness where everything is overly urgent and you don’t know whether to laugh or cry and is your hand shaking a little? Is your eye twitching?” Literally me at lunchtime and I never learn lol!! Leslie you’re hilarious.

  • Adrianna

    I’m assuming this is a sponsored post? I tried Sweetgreen once a few weeks after a new location opened near my office. I ordered the hummus salad…. and they forgot the hummus. I mostly haven’t gone back because the employees were rude.

    • Leslie Price

      @adriannagrak:disqus Not sponsored!

    • Harling Ross

      they recently changed the falafel recipe and it’s been quite an adjustment for me emotionally

    • Abby

      The only time I’ve ever been in a Sweetgreen the employee I was speaking with was so rude that I walked right out!

      • Adrianna

        I ordered online from Astor Place. Otherwise I would have walked out too, because the guy working the register blatantly looked at me and ignored me when I spoke after being friendly with the tiny Lululemon girl in front of me.

  • Shannon

    DC’s proudest export to date. Almost makes up for the governmental inefficiency/inefficacy. Now off to order my Tuesday desk salad.

  • Perla

    Leslie this couldn’t be more accurate!

  • Yara & Jude

    Great post! And so accurate haha

    Selftimers Blog | Bloglovin’


  • s_knucks

    i always order ahead and mix it myself; all my coworkers think i’m insane

  • Kay

    Get bulk walnuts to add on top, their walnut spoon is depressing. Highly recommend miso dressing with a splash of vinegar or lemon, it needs the extra tang but so so good.

    • Harling Ross

      the nut spoons are NOT adequate!!!!

  • MO

    so random, i just posted about the sweetgreen x millennials phenomenon today!

    question i’m toying with: is sweetgreen utopia?

  • YT

    love SG. Cant wait wait for the Erik Bruner-Yang special to start! Not in NY yet, but I have a LOT of protips for your future “Beefsteak-ing”

  • lilyelle

    I’m so spoiled in DC – there are two sweetgreens within three blocks of my office and I’ve only had to wait in line maybe like, 5 times in the last 5 years of heavy sweetgreen use. About to move to Brooklyn where there is no sweetgreen … and your description of the lines at your manhattan location has me shaking in my hungry, impatiently tapping boots! I’m on the edge of a very difficult sweetgreen withdrawal, I can feel it coming 🙁

    My most useful hack: if you don’t like all of the ingredients in the premade salads, they’re always willing to swap things out. This means you get MORE than the standard four ingredients and it’s way cheaper than if you put all of those things in a custom bowl! As a vegetarian this is KEY.

    • Kay

      They opened at least one sweetgreen in bkln, in Williamsburg! Always a line but they go fast

  • chouette

    OK so lieeeek… how do you even get initiated to these salad places? I find myself in that awful 1:30 situation every time and I haven’t publicly cried in YEARS but the Times Square Bro Lunch Rush has brought me close. There are never prices anywhere, there are like 40 lines, and then I’m gonna get TAPPED AT to boot? aughghhh

    • Leslie Price

      Start by going at odd hours — either very early or very late. For real.

  • Cait

    I always always order in advance and then my salad is ready and waiting for me and I can enjoy 10 more minutes of my lunch break. I can also gloat about to my coworkers who are standing in line. The other benefit is that you aren’t rushed and can tinker with the ingredients and contemplate the perfect mix. You can also double the dressing so you don’t end up with a dry bottom of the bowl.

  • Jolie

    I’m cackling because Sweetgreen became a “Thing” while I was unemployed and now that I’ve finally found a FT job, I feel like it’s this secret inside joke that no one’s let me in on, so thanks for this! I’m terrified of going there because I have no idea what the hell it’s all about so wish me luck – I promise not to hold up the line with questions when I eventually stop by.

    • Leslie Price

      It’s very intense.

  • I just discovered Sweetgreen on my most recent trip to NYC in September and didn’t have any issues. It was a scorching hot day and I popped into one in Chelsea as an excuse to milk their ice cold water and air conditioning. It wasn’t crowded and I didn’t feel out of place not knowing the menu, but boy was it delicious! I honestly can’t wait till they’re everywhere. And By, Chloe.


  • BrooklynBird

    I don’t even like vegetables and I’m addicted to Sweetgreen. I always mix kale and quinoa and it’s super filling. I’m only part time employed so this is an inconvenient addiction…

  • Mariana

    As a non american, i never hear of sweetgreen so I looked up (thank you google for answering to all of my questions and curiosities). It looks very good, love the #sweetlife philosophy, but I thought this kind of places (with healthy, colourfull, veggie food in a bowl) were already very implemented in the usa, particularly in cities like nyc and la. My point is that I don’t get the buzz and the big waiting lines, I find their food ordenary (maybe because my country’s normal diet is mediterranean).

  • libby

    i agree hundo percent on everything listed above, but you cannot actually with good conscious say that sweetgreen is attractive because of its “low cost”. As someone who goes multiple times a week and leaves everytime saying “goddammit stop spending $13 on a salad!!!!” i feel qualified to object strongly to this point. Now GTFO of my line as I have a warm quinoa bowl to enjoy on this seasonally warm fall day. xx

    • Leslie Price

      I have figured out how to get in and out of there for $8!

  • pamb

    And I wish I had a Sweetgreen in my town! But I think it takes a certain kind of p[erson, like a Starbucks person, to have automatically know which ingredients you want and in what combination. Everyone has a first time, right? Be kind to the newbies who don’t have the terminology down yet.

  • What is this Sweetgreen you speak of and where can I find it?? I need this in my life on a regular basis. Since I already know the dos and don’ts, ins and outs of this magical Salad Extravaganza I can’t wait to study the menu, jot down a few notes and get my Sweetgreens on

  • Sarah B

    Re: #11, ask them to toss your salad (maybe work on your phrasing) when you’re picking it up! Bam. Best of both worlds– no waiting, no dry greens. And they’re happy to do it.

  • Sarah

    Love that you discussed this topic! I always order ahead because I hate wasting time in line. The dressing situation is a pain though. I try to even the dressing out by adding a little bit to eat layer as I go through my salad. This is going to sound insane, but sometimes if I add in a lot of flavor-packed veggies (like tomatoes, corn, and avocado) I find that I don’t need the dressing.

  • kate

    I live in D.C where Sweetgreen originated, so I am something of an expert on them too. Their cashew dressing is by far their best, but I’ve never noticed the aftertaste situation. I have taken to ordering in advance and bringing the salad back to my desk. To address the situation with the dressing I dump everything into a larger bowl that I keep at work specifically for this purpose. The added space gives you room to toss. If you order a Rad Thai with chicken, instead of shrimp, it’s much less expensive. I do love Sweetgreen, but I hate how obsessed it is with trending vegetables like Brussel sprouts, kale and beets, all of which I hate. It limits what I can order. I basically always get a Rad Thai with chicken or the Kale Ceasar, hold the kale. Their bread is off the hook. There are days where all I want to eat is their bread. I also find the acoustics in their restaurants really hard to deal with–too many hard surfaces. I have had many orders messed up (before I started ordering ahead) due to the room being too loud and the worker not hearing me.