Shares of Sweetgreen surged 86% in its market debut on Thursday, following an upsized IPO that priced the salad chain’s shares at $28.
Sweetgreen planned to sell 12.5 million shares priced at $23-$25, according to a Tuesday SEC filing. But the company said in a statement on Wednesday that it sold 13 million shares at $28 each.
The IPO handed Sweetgreen about $51.5 million more than expected. The total public offering gave the company an approximate $3.4 billion valuation on a fully-diluted basis. Thursday’s price surge put the valuation over $5 billion.
Shares opened on the New York Stock Exchange Thursday afternoon at $52 and closed slightly lower at $49.50 — still a 77% jump from Wednesday’s IPO.
The salad company, founded in 2007 by three recent graduates of Georgetown University, operates 140 restaurants across 13 states and Washington, D.C.
According to a public filing, Sweetgreen plans to use the $364 million it will gain from the IPO “for general corporate purposes, including working capital, operating expenses, and capital expenditures, as well as developing the technology acquired in our recent acquisition of Spyce Food Co.”
Spyce Food Co. made a name for itself through its automated kitchen technology, and is expected to aid Sweetgreen in its scaling efforts.
Sweetgreen co-founder and CEO Jonathan Neman told Yahoo Finance that the company has no intentions of replacing its human workers with automation.
“We just believe in continuing to invest in technology to enable them to do their job,” Neman said. “We do that already with a lot of software inside our restaurants, but over time we like to continue to invest in that to elevate that role and make it easier and more joyful.”
Although the company’s intended use of the IPO funds is written broadly in the filing, Neman told the Wall Street Journal on Thursday that “the major focus is continuing to expand our footprint into as many communities as possible.”
COVID Remains an Ongoing Investor Risk, Sweetgreen Warns
The company going public comes amid the COVID-19 pandemic, during which Sweetgreen revenues saw a marked drop.
In 2020, the company reported $221 million in net revenue with a $142 million loss from operations. Comparatively, in 2019, the company reported $274 million in net revenue and $70 million in operation losses.
However, the restaurant’s revenue appears to be on the mend as many COVID restrictions have been lifted or relaxed. The company reported a net $243 million through Sept. 26.
Nonetheless, the company appeared cautious about the remaining potential impacts of the COVID pandemic in its prospectus.
Among the risk factors listed, COVID appeared multiple times, possibly posing the threat of disrupted operations, changes in customer trends as a result of the pandemic and government vaccination mandates that could cause restaurants to shift their dining models and/or terminate employees who do not comply with the mandate.
“To date, we have had significant challenges with our team members submitting proof of COVID-19 vaccinations,” the filing states. “If the Biden employer vaccination mandate goes into effect, or if we choose to continue to operate indoor dining in markets with indoor dining vaccination mandates, the required actions could result in potentially significant employee layoffs, staffing shortages and related restaurant closures if not enough of our employees are vaccinated, as well as customer frustration.”