This, salad eaters, is the Fort Sumter, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand assassination of the Great Baltimore-D.C. Salad Wars.
Sweetgreen is popular enough to have locations throughout the District and the surrounding suburbs and in such places as New York City, Philadelphia, and Santa Monica, California. It's started an annual music festival at Merriweather Post Pavilion; Kendrick Lamar, The Weeknd, Calvin Harris, and the Pixies headlined in the spring of this year.
But Baltimore is firmly entrenched as a Nalley Fresh town—that salad peddler was founded here in Charm City and has quickly expanded its stronghold in the area, with three locations in the city proper and suburban stores in Hunt Valley, Timonium, and Towson.
In a late-October interview with the Baltimore Business Journal, Sweetgreen president and chief operating officer Karen Kelley offered the following boilerplate olive branch when the subject of Nalley Fresh came up.
"The Baltimore market has a number of great pockets, it's a great community," she said. "There's space in the marketplace for more healthier options and choices, and for people to eat better and engage with food differently, which is where we think the food is headed."
That's a trojan horse if we've ever heard one. This is war, and war is hell.
What's particularly interesting is this: Nalley Fresh is making an aggressive play in the suburban Maryland no man's land of Montgomery and Howard counties, with stores planned for Gaithersburg and Columbia, respectively. D.C. is Sweetgreen's home base, and make no mistake, this is an aggressive attack by Nalley Fresh on the D.C. market. This manuever could be brilliant, like the Normandy landing, or it could be their Waterloo.
Sweetgreen has stations in Bethesda, Silver Spring, and College Park, but this push to the south by Nalley Fresh may cause them to deploy more forces in the direction of Baltimore. The battle for the middle is on.
At press time, it was not immediately clear if Chop't, another popular salad chain that is locked in a battle for D.C. with Sweetgreen, would engage in Baltimore.