WUSTL student’s CWE salad business closes
This past Friday, Green Bean, a salad and wrap restaurant in the Central West End popular among Washington University students, closed.
The restaurant, which prided itself on providing customers with a fresh, healthy and sustainable dining experience, was founded in 2011 by Washington University alumna Sarah Haselkorn, then a junior majoring in systems engineering.
The announcement was made on Green Bean’s Facebook page on Sept. 3.
Haselkorn said closing had always been a possibility, but the final decision to close didn’t happen until August sale numbers came in.
“There were some strains on the business during the first year that just made it difficult for us to bounce back and sort of reach a cash-flow-positive state,” Haselkorn said. “I was waiting and hoping, and we had done a lot of things to increase revenue this year, but it was just a little bit of too little, too late.”
In the last few weeks Green Bean was in business, customers had reported problems with the restaurant, specifically the customer service.
“Toward the end, service got really bad, with really slow-moving lines or few employees making salads,” senior Moira Moynihan said. “But the product was good enough that we kept going.”
Moynihan, along with many other customers, reached out to Green Bean via social media to voice their concerns.
“We cut hours and things like that, and that slows service,” Haselkorn said. “I was pretty aware of a lot of the things that were going on at the end, and customers were contacting me and letting me know…I kind of waited until I knew that we were going to close to respond and say, ‘Our service was inexcusable. I appreciate your concern.’”
Although she could have tried to sell her business, Haselkorn decided that closing was the best choice for Green Bean. Besides the trouble that finding a new tenant to lease the restaurant out to very quickly would have caused, Haselkorn also wanted to preserve the brand she had created.
“I toyed with a couple of options, but because it was a last-minute decision, I didn’t have a ton of time,” Haselkorn said. “I would say the big reason I didn’t [sell] it is because the assets the company has are our menu and our brand, and that’s something that’s completely intangible. And while it might have value, it could have potential to have a lot more value at a certain point in time [in the future].”
Clifford Holekamp, senior lecturer in entrepreneurship in the Olin Business School, noted that Green Bean’s lifespan was not atypical of a restaurant.
“The restaurant business is one of the most difficult industries to start a business in,” Holekamp said. “She had a two-year run. That’s pretty good in the restaurant business. The majority of restaurants don’t even make it six months.”
Both Haselkorn and Holekamp agree that for an entrepreneur, failure is not necessarily a bad thing.
“In the world of startups, we have a different view of failure than you might see in other disciplines,” Holekamp said. “It’s typical to have learned through a couple experiences before you find the one that’s your big hit. We don’t call it failure; we call it learning.”
Holekamp, a mentor to Haselkorn as well as a frequent customer at the salad and wrap eatery, was also disappointed to see Green Bean close.
“I was sad to see it end, [and] a lot of the reason I was sad is because I’ll miss the food—it was a great product,” Holekamp said. “She ran a great place that I felt addressed an important need in our local restaurant scene, but I’m glad for her that she’ll be able to work on her other pursuits.”
Many Wash. U. students will be sad to see the restaurant go as well.
“That’s the only salad place that I liked. I never eat salads, and I only ate salads from there because I could make it myself and add things like pineapple and Craisins—things I can’t find at other places,” senior Susan Frost said.
“It was an affordable, healthy salad bar with unique options like roasted seaweed, and it was a great lunch place,” senior Madeleine Parker said. “However, I didn’t go as often as I would have liked because of the location and lack of parking.”
For the die-hard Green Bean fans out there, however, there is hope that Green Bean may someday return to the salad market.
“I think at the right place at the right time with the right people, it’s a good idea. I still believe that to the core,” Haselkorn said.