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There’s nothing sweet about this situation!
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Sweetgreen CEO Jonathan Neman has issued a verbal apology to employees of the cult-favorite salad chain after a LinkedIn post he wrote went viral. The post cited the obesity epidemic in America as a core reason for the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“78% of hospitalizations due to COVID are Obese and Overweight people,” Neman wrote at the time in a post that has since been deleted. “Is there an underlying problem that perhaps we have not given enough attention to? Is there another way to think about how we tackle ‘healthcare’ by addressing the root cause?”
He also wrote that “No mask and no vaccine will save us” in regards to the ongoing pandemic.
Naturally, his commentary caused quite the uproar, leading to a town-hall style meeting on Tuesday where he apologized to employees while simultaneously doubling down on the ideology behind his comments.
In Tueday’s meeting, per a recording obtained by Vice, Neman said that he “stood behind the intent of the post” before apologizing to employees for having to deal with the “drama” and his “mistakes” while admitting that the experience was a big learning lesson for him.
“It could have been said much more eloquently, but the intent was real,” the CEO said to employees. “You all know that this is a core part of our mission, and something we truly believe in. And we believe that food is part of that solution. Sweetgreen alone is not going to solve this. Salads alone are not going to solve this.”
The apology reportedly drew mixed responses from employees on the call.
“I think everybody on this call understood what you meant by it, so don’t beat yourself up,” one said to the team. “We believe in you, we believe in Sweetgreen, and thanks for doing this so much, that’s really awesome so don’t beat yourself up.”
Others, however, were outraged, with some employees questioning whether Neman would make a formal, public apology following the LinkedIn post.
“I found it highly offensive, but also am aware of the mission statement of this company, and it’s why I’m here,” one employee said. “But I’m just curious, because your words do carry a lot of weight for a lot of us. I’m so sorry. I’m still emotional about it. But the things that were said are offensive.”
The salad chain reportedly topped $300 million in revenue in 2019 alone, per the New York Times.
Neman has not publicly issued a statement. Sweetgreen also did not immediately respond to Entrepreneur’s request for a comment.