Vegan Salad

Should I Invest In Sweetgreen Stock Right Now?

The CEO of this highly-digital salad eatery inaccurately claimed his company was profitable; so, is Sweetgreen a good investment right now?

With so many companies going public via a SPAC merger these days, Sweetgreen (NYSE: SG) decided to take the traditional approach, listed its stock at $3.00 higher than expected, and saw a tremendous few days, until finally correcting. Many analysts have compared the restaurant to Chipotle for its efficiency or Domino’s for primarily being a tech company that also serves food. The comparisons, although valid, omit a very important detail: profitability. 

At the end of 2018, when posed with the question, “Are you profitable?” Sweetgreen CEO, Jonathan Neman said, “We are.” They weren’t. Not then and not now; not even on an adjusted basis. What the company does have is a very hot metric so is Sweetgreen a good investment right now?

The bull case for Sweetgreen

Roughly 75% of all sales come from the digital realm; if you want to order from Sweetgreen, you need to create an account. This empowers the company to market to individual consumers and nudges anyone not purchasing with enticing offers, not to mention track performance and adjust accordingly for any given store or region. Business seems to have responded as according to the company’s S-1, revenue is up 73%, restaurant-level profits surged nearly 380%, and profit margins have climbed 275%, year-over-year (YoY).

Moreover, the outlook for fiscal 2021 has revenue climbing 51% in the same time period. Sweetgreen’s average unit volume (AUV, the important metric mentioned above) is estimated to be $2.5 million for fiscal 2021. By comparison, that’s currently Chipotles number even though that company has been public for 15 years. And finally, although Sweetgreen’s menu offers different seasonal options, it isn’t strictly limited to salads as the company offers protein bowls to entice new customers.

The bear case for Sweetgreen

Sweetgreen’s AUV may be high, but that’s probably because of all its 140 stores, nearly all are in high-density urban areas like New York and Washington, D.C. As the company expands to more rural areas, that number is sure to drop. Additionally, compared to similar restaurants (like Chipotle), Sweetgreen’s average meal price is higher for what most would consider a less substantial offering and it has a 15-minute suggested expiration time on its salads. The CEO’s claim of profitability isn’t the only questionable claim he has made as he had recently quickly deleted a LinkedIn post he made advocating for government-backed tax hikes for unhealthy foods. The company may have a loyal customer base, but with these strikes against it, can it appeal to new consumers or will people opt to pay less for ‘more meal’ that doesn’t go bad so quickly?

So, is Sweetgreen a good investment?

Aside from our policy not to endorse a newly listed company, I feel that even long term, this company may be highly overvalued at its current price. Best to wait for further corrections and a few more earnings reports before taking a position.

Quickfire round:

1. Where is Sweetgreen headquartered?

Initially founded in Washington, D.C., the company switched its HQ to Culver City, CA in 2016

2. When did Sweetgreen go public and who is its CEO?

November 18, 2021. Co-Founder Jonathan Neman

3. How much is the average salad at Sweetgreen?

$10-11 plus tax

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