Team Stanford 2: A Little Rock Café Rooted in Integrity

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Organization: The Root Café, Little Rock, Arkansas is a local café started by Jack and Corri Sundell 3 years ago. The Root believes in food with integrity and sources their ingredients from local farmers in Arkansas. They’re a small, unpretentious café with delicious food and a homey feel. They are open for breakfast and lunch and also host community events (such as a beard growing contest!). Jack and Corri have been instrumental in bringing businesses to the SOMA neighborhood and in furthering the local food movement by partnering with other businesses.

Challenge: Evaluate The Root’s current social media strategy and help them prioritize new forms of media to get their message and mission to the community. Review their website and suggest structural and content changes that they can build into their new website. Help them think about food inventory cost management in a more efficient manner, since they make a lot of their ingredients from scratch and source from multiple farmers, inventory management and food cost evaluation can be complicated and cumbersome.

Impact: We started the week with a brainstorming session with Jack and Corri so we could all align on the key values The Root Café  stood for. This helped in creating a consistent story that depicted what really matters to them–sourcing from local farmers, making an impact on their community, providing great customer service and serving flavorful food with integrity. We spent the next day interviewing customers to understand why they came to The Root, how they heard about it, etc. We also wanted to understand what segments the café appealed to so we could cater to their needs through our communication and offerings. While The Root was doing a great job on social media, we wanted to ensure that their efforts were deliberate and led to an increase in sales as well. Managing communication across multiple platforms can also be intimidating and we helped build out a communications calendar for all social media and suggested ways in which each one should be used so minimize time required. We also put together suggestions and ideas on how to use these platforms based on what best in class restaurants were doing. Similarly, we built out a website mockup that was based on best in class websites in the industry.

Our second project was related to better managing food inventory costs. After conversations with Jack and Corri and with Herb Wilson, an experienced celebrity chef who has run multiple restaurants, we put together a simple spreadsheet to help track cost of goods sold and overall inventory. We also put together a simple spreadsheet to track labor costs.

The final piece of our project was to have a conversation with Jack and Corri about offering dinner at The Root. Dinner had come up many times in our conversations that week and we wanted to push it forward as something we felt was important to taking the business to the next level. We understood the specific concerns they had and worked together to discuss ideas and ways to mitigate those concerns.

What we learned: At The Root, a lot of our notions on what success really means were challenged. Success is defined differently by different organizations and doesn’t always mean profitability. Success at The Root meant sourcing produce from more farmers, success meant having a space the community could gather in, success meant serving food that was raised with integrity. Realizing how much freedom a business got from defining success differently was empowering. Being able to build a business that has it’s own parameters for defining success allows us to work in industries we love, on products we love and gives us the freedom to change the world.

In addition, we were astounded by the sheer commitment we saw from Jack and Corri. Commitment to their business, commitment to their values and commitment to all their stakeholders. What The Root displayed on their website or wrote on their walls was what they believed. They genuinely cared about their impact on society and their mission and seeing such strong ethics in action was inspiring for us as future business



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On October 9, 2014
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