Case study: Sweet Lulu – Delivering the Right Message
Sweet Lulu is a young Toronto restaurant chain serving fast healthy Asian noodles in relaxed and casual atmosphere. It opened its first outlet in 2005 and is the brainchild of entrepreneur Serge Vitale.
Sweet Lulu walks the talk when it comes to sustainability and corporate responsibility practising diversity in employment, environmentalism in operations and active involvement in the community. For example, it is one of only a handful of companies in Toronto that deliver takeaways by bicycle. It supports local food banks and actively employs staff that would otherwise find work hard to get such as disadvantaged and troubled youth, including youth with disabilities. Staff come from diverse backgrounds – America, Africa, China, Europe, Jamaica, Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam.
As a young enterprise with CR woven into its heart, Sweet Lulu needed to find a natural way to communicate its values and practices to current and potential customers.
Research led PCS to discover the ‘Outstanding Young Person’s Award’ given each year by the Junior Chamber International of Osaka to outstanding young people who have made significant contributions to their communities. The highlight of the award is a private audience with the Crown Prince of Japan.
PCS persuaded Serge Vitale to enter and managed the submission process. PCS’s strategy was to highlight Sweet Lulu’s fresh and natural CR credentials from its healthy and environmentally friendly approach to food cooking, sourcing and waste; its involvement in the community and HR policies that put ‘fairness first’ from diversity in hiring policies to a promise to promote from within.
With strong CR programs in place that are aligned with good business practice and core values, PCS had to the tools to create a powerful proposal for the judges on behalf of Sweet Lulu – and triumph.
Serge was named one of the ‘Outstanding Young Persons’ of the year for his work in Corporate Social Responsibility and invited to Japan to receive his award and make a presentation that PCS helped him create. The highlight of the trip was a private audience with Crown Prince Naruhito of Japan.
For a small restaurant owner to win such a prestigious international award – past winners include Microsoft, Asics, Infosys, IKEA and UBS Bank – was major news in Canada.
With the help of PCS, Sweet Lulu garnered media coverage in Canada when the win was announced. When Serge went to Japan, more media coverage followed with radio interviews in Osaka. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation covered his meeting with the Crown Prince in Tokyo, which aired on TV back home.
As well as creating a buzz of national pride, Sweet Lulu saw a positive spike in business of up to 10% in the months following both publicity bursts. In the long term, the award has boosted management’s confidence and belief in the sustainable business benefits of its commitment to CR.
For Sweet Lulu’s customers, the win has had a positive effect on both loyalty and goodwill. Customers now know much more about the restaurant’s CR programs and feel good about choosing to dine at Sweet Lulu – and recommending the restaurant to their social networks.