After a productive day of work in the community, we gathered in the dining pavilion to relax and unwind. The atmosphere was enchanting with the newly hung string lights twinkling above us. Our taste buds were delighted with the traditional Ugandan cuisine we enjoyed for
dinner, leaving us with a satisfying feeling. As the night progressed, we played games and danced under the stars while enjoying a fusion of American and Ugandan tunes. Our hearts were full of joy as we celebrated the community and cherished each other's company. This moment during our January travel to Kalongo was magical, and it was all centered around Saint Bakhita’s Restaurant. From this moment, our team was inspired by the potential that we saw for the future of Saint Bakhita’s Restaurant to bring the Kalongo community together as well, providing quality food, atmosphere, and company. We have dedicated the past semester to working with Head of School Victoria Nyanjura, newly hired Chef Brian Ojok, and the girls at Saint Bakhita’s to improve the operations of Saint Bakhita’s Restaurant and to provide a true resource to the Kalongo community. From our own experience, interviews within the community, and based on our financial projections, we are hopeful that Saint Bakhita’s Restaurant can reach the potential we believe it has. Saint Bakhita’s Restaurant has the opportunity to become one of the best establishments in Kalongo, providing a consistent revenue stream to contribute to making the school self-sustaining while teaching Innovation Scholars catering, customer service, business management, and marketing skills to ensure they are able to thrive in their entrepreneurial endeavors.
Our First Steps
On the first day of the semester, our team – Abbie, Kate, Estelle, and Sydney — came together to work on a project to enhance the growth of St. Bakhita's bread business. The team's collective experiences and interests played a role in our decision to choose the restaurant project. Abbie's recent visit to Uganda to explore the potential of the restaurant, Sydney's passion for cooking and baking, and Estelle and Kate's involvement in a previous project related to the same business made it a natural choice for us to collaborate on this project. With the team assembled, we were eager to commence our work.
Before making improvements to the restaurant, we felt it was crucial to gather information about the current status and latest updates of the restaurant. First, we became aware that the restaurant had recently hired a new chef. The addition of Chef Brian Ojok to Saint Bakhita's Restaurant brings with him a wealth of expertise and formal training that will benefit both the restaurant and catering students.
Secondly, we learned about a collaboration with the architecture school that would be working on renovating the restaurant. During the early stages of the semester, we attended a presentation by the architecture students. We provided our input by suggesting that the restaurant should face the street and be separated from the rest of the school to ensure safety. While the construction of the restaurant may not be entirely finished until June, our responsibility was to concentrate on the operations, marketing, and menu that will be put into effect once the construction is complete later this summer. The architecture students dove into developing construction plans for an improved and renovated restaurant space, while we focused our attention on streamlining existing processes such as inventory tracking and management, and exploring new revenue streams.
Preparations for a Spring Break in Uganda
In order to achieve the dream we see for Saint Bakhita’s Restaurant, we focused our research and prototyping this semester on establishing a menu for the restaurant, developing a system to track profitability, and introducing products like loaf bread to generate additional revenue. We began the semester working on deliverables such as crafting a hypothesis, creating an issue tree, and developing a business model canvas that helped us to define our key partners, customer segments, and revenue streams. Our team knew that a majority of research and interviewing would take place during the immersive spring break trip to Uganda, so our team spent a large portion of the first half of the semester preparing for the trip. Before the team traveled over spring break to Saint Bakhita’s in Kalongo, Uganda, we took a deep dive into the existing information on estimated restaurant finances, met with key stakeholders such as Victoria Nyanjura, Head of School, and the newly hired head chef Brian Ojok, and developed a set of action items for the trip.
One of the opportunities we recognized for Saint Bakhita’s school was making and selling bread. Fresh loaf bread is hard to come by in Kalongo – people tend to travel great lengths or simply settle for processed bread from the major cities. We knew from our previous research that students at Saint Bakhita’s had a strong interest in baking (and eating!) bread, so our team searched to find the right recipes to yield fresh loaves of bread to sell to the rest of Kalongo, and surrounding communities.
We took to the kitchen to prototype bread baking ourselves, crafting a simple loaf bread recipe to take with us over spring break. We researched loaf recipes with minimal ingredients, being careful not to select ones with sugar in the loaf, based on feedback we received from Victoria and the Saint Bakhita’s students who visited our classroom in the fall, 2022. With these steps completed, we were ready for Sydney and Estelle to travel to Uganda to learn more.
Estelle and Sydney in Kalongo
After about 48 hours of travel, Estelle and Sydney finally arrived at St. Bakhita’s. They spent the first day receiving a tour of the Campus and spent time meeting the students. Our team had a few main goals to achieve while we were there: we wanted to conduct ethnographic research related to the bakery and restaurant, we wanted to prototype baking bread in St. Bakhita’s restaurant, we wanted to develop a menu for the restaurant, and we wanted to learn more about the restaurant’s finances.
Interviewing in Kalongo:
Estelle and Sydney spent two of the days at St. Bakhita’s performing ethnographic research. The first day, Estelle and Sydney went into the small town of Kalongo and visited various restaurants to ask questions. Through this research, we learned that there are a few tiers of restaurants in Kalongo, which offer vastly different price ranges. The least expensive restaurants include street vendors, followed by casual sit down restaurants in the middle of the pricing tier, and then rather expensive restaurants offering an elevated experience at a higher price. Based on our interviews in the community and conversations with the chef and catering students, we concluded that our restaurant comfortably falls in the middle range, which we should strive to maintain.
We also observed the typical offerings that were served at the restaurant. We found that most restaurants follow a similar menu format where they offer a “sauce”, which is the main protein source, and base the cost of the meal off this protein selection. The “sauce” is typically served with a choice of a few free sides. During our second day of ethnographic research, we interviewed the patrons who were eating lunch at Saint Bakhita’s Restaurant. Most of them were on their lunch break from the neighboring hospital, Saint Ambrosoli Hospital.
We asked one woman to participate in a card sort, where she ranked her favorite “sauces'' and her favorite “sides.” We found from this exercise, as well as from additional interviews within the restaurant and in the town, that the most popular options to order out are chicken and beans, which we plan to focus on moving forward.
While in Kalongo for spring break, one of the travel team’s main goals was to test and sell bread. We explored traditional bread recipes with simple ingredients, and a sweet loaf made with bananas and the local “ground nut butter”, or peanut butter as we would refer to it in the US.
Baking in Uganda proved to be difficult – the differences in climate and ingredients changed the outcome of the loaves. After a few iterations of recipe adjustments, we baked a loaf we were proud of. Our final product was light, fresh, and delicious. The students and restaurant guests offered rave reviews of the bread. We all had so much fun gathering in the kitchen, laughing with the students of Saint Bakhita’s, and baking bread! The girls had so much fun they have asked us to help them develop more recipes and have even baked cakes since we left!
With positive feedback from the students on our plain loaf bread, we decided to test the banana bread in the community. Knowing that sweet baked goods are not typical in Uganda, we were eager to have as many people sample the bread as possible. It took a little coaxing to garner interest as most members of the community were skeptical, but we received very positive feedback on the flavor! However, we learned that our pricing turned people away. We asked for 2,000 UGX for a slice in order to turn a profit, but this price is staggering in comparison to the 500 UGX street vendors charge for a small food item. We’re confident the banana bread can be a hit in the restaurant and amongst vendors in the local market, but we know now that we are priced out of the street vending market.
We’re excited by the great revenue potential from introducing traditional loaf bread and occasional specialty loafs, such as the banana bread, to the Kalongo community. There is a demand for fresh bread throughout the community in local stores, neighboring schools, and the nearby hospital that we hope to capitalize on. By baking and selling two loaves per day to the local hospital 5 days per week, we anticipate earning 45,000 UGX weekly. Additionally, we hope teaching the skill of bread making to the students at Saint Bakhita and introducing this opportunity to the community will eventually aid economic prosperity in the region. The catering students expressed a high level of enjoyment and interest in baking so we believe this project can be expanded and offer a new set of skills to the girls.
The March trip to Kalongo provided a wonderful opportunity to take a closer look at the operations and finances of the restaurant.
A key question we had for the restaurant was if it could be profitable, but before traveling to Uganda we had practically no information on what the typical revenues and costs of each dish were. In order to better understand the costs of each dish, we developed a pricing worksheet that would analyze input costs and ensure the price we were selling the dish for was net positive.
While we were in Uganda, we had the opportunity to teach Chef Brian and Cinderella, a fellow who works primarily in the kitchen, how to use our pricing sheet. We broke down the exact unit economics of a loaf of bread and a slice of banana bread. Although we didn’t have time in Uganda, we also created two additional tracking logs when we were home at the request of Chef Brian: an inventory log and a daily inventory tracking system so that the restaurant knows when they need to make a trip to restock on ingredients.
While we were there, we also were able to take a full look at the log that the restaurant keeps of their sales. We took pictures of all the pages so that we could continue to analyze the document when we returned.
In order to better understand this question of profitability, our team created a spreadsheet tracking the average cost of ingredients based on an interview with Chef Brian. We then used the restaurant’s existing log to find the amount of each dish ordered in a month and how much the restaurant charged for that dish. With this information we were able to develop an accurate and informative P&L Statement for the restaurant once we were home.
When visiting the school, we noticed how tucked away and hidden the restaurant was from the main street in Kalongo. The travelers on the road would never know that a restaurant is on the school grounds! This is one of the reasons we envisioned the street facing restaurant while looking over potential plans and drawings with the architecture students. With a more visible location, we hope to increase customers at the restaurant. A plan to increase customer traffic will include a new marketing strategy of creating posters that can be placed in the community as well as looking into radio or other forms of advertising. Seeing a poster on the outside of the school facing the street would immediately catch the attention of all the people walking to and from the local market. When Sydney sold banana bread outside of the school, she saw the potential of just how many people walk along the school grounds and could become restaurant customers. She remembers that those who came up to the stand were very supportive of the St. Bakhita’s student, Patricia, who was selling goods with her. Many community members know about the Saint Bakhita’s school, but they may not be aware of Saint Bakhita’s Restaurant so we hope that marketing will quickly impact the popularity of the restaurant as community members are willing to support the school and its mission.
Upon our arrival home, Estelle and Sydney had many new ideas and thoughts on their minds. Prior to travel, many circumstances regarding the restaurant were unknown. We now gained an understanding of restaurant operations and emotions towards changes we were considering so we were ready to continue work on various aspects of the project.
With enthusiastic reactions from the catering students and Chef Brian to the newly introduced baking, we were excited to continue researching the opportunities available in selling bread and baked goods to the community. This included evaluating potential partnerships with the local hospital, researching new recipes that the girls can try to make (peanut butter cookies and cakes), as well as creating a label for the bread that can turn it into a professional looking packaged good.
In addition to pursuing more baking opportunities, we continued to evaluate where the restaurant can grow while it awaits renovation in the summer. This included considering new menu options with Chef Brian, working to get him training at Elephante Commons, a popular and successful restaurant in Gulu, and continually evaluating the profitability of the dishes that are already being cooked and sold in the restaurant.
The moments we were able to share with the girls and staff at Saint Bakhita’s grew an even greater passion in us to make this project successful. We hope to continue to support the growth of Saint Bakhita’s Restaurant and Bakhita Bread as we believe an abundance of potential exists for this endeavor.
Meet the Team
Kate Barry is a senior from San Diego, California. She is studying management consulting and political science and is excited to graduate this May. In the fall of 2022, Kate took Professor Wendy Angst’s course, Innovation and Design Thinking, and fell in love with the work at Saint Bakhita’s. Next year, she will be moving to Chicago to work in Deloitte’s Risk and Financial Advisory practice doing Data Privacy and Cyber Security work. She hopes to stay involved with the project after graduation, following along for any and all updates and innovations and remaining available as a mentor to help future students.
Estelle Beutz is a senior from Edina, Minnesota who is pursuing Business Analytics with minors in History and Entrepreneurship. Her involvement with Saint Bakhita's began when she took an Innovation and Design Thinking course taught by Professor Wendy Angst in the fall of 2022. This led her to enroll in an Applied Impact Consulting class this semester and eventually travel to Saint Bakhita's during the spring break of 2023. After graduation, Estelle will be working in Chicago as an investment banker at Bank of America. Despite graduating, she plans to remain involved with Saint Bakhita's by mentoring future students involved in the project and occasionally visiting Notre Dame to assist in one of Professor Angst's courses.
Sydney Cripps is a senior from Indianapolis, Indiana studying Management Consulting with a minor in Computing and Digital Technologies. She took Professor Angst’s Innovation and Design Thinking class during the Fall of her junior year (2021) and was inspired by the project. When an opportunity to continue to be involved through the new Applied Consulting course and the option to travel was presented to her she decided to rejoin working on the project. Sydney traveled to Saint Bakhita’s in March of 2023 over Spring Break. After graduation, Sydney will be moving to Chicago as a consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers. She hopes to continue to offer advice on projects that Notre Dame supports at Saint Bakhita’s.
Abbie Hegarty is a senior from Victoria, Minnesota, studying Management Consulting and Spanish at Notre Dame. She first became involved with Saint Bakhita’s through Wendy Angst’s Innovation and Design Thinking course in the fall of 2022. After developing a passion for the school and forming relationships with Saint Bakhita’s students throughout the semester, Abbie traveled to Kalongo, Uganda in January 2023 to conduct ethnographic research for future projects. She now works to optimize Saint Bakhita’s Restaurant in the Applied Impact Consulting course at Notre Dame. After her graduation in May, Abbie will begin her career in consulting at Boston Consulting Group in Minneapolis. Although she will be leaving Notre Dame, Abbie plans to stay very connected with Saint Bakhita’s, hoping to travel to Kalongo again this summer and serve as a mentor for Notre Dame teams in the coming years.