Connecting good ideas to invigorate Richmond’s food scene

An SIR Case Study | Back to OUR WORK

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SIR Client: Reynolds Community College Culinary Arts Program

Challenge: Reynolds Community College in Richmond has had a culinary arts program for years that saw modest success. But in 2016, it wanted to increase its student enrollment and community reach in a transformative way.

Action: Tasked with leading the community research for this project, SIR creatively identified strong connections between Reynolds education goals and Richmond’s own goals in workforce, economic, and community development. An initial landscape analysis looked at the infrastructure of similar programs and restaurant ecosystems in other cities. The result was a key finding: Today’s young people are flocking to areas with vibrant food scenes, driving economic development as they go. We then reached out to Richmond’s own community leaders, chefs, and food and hospitality industries and discovered an opportunity for workforce development: training more qualified professionals to fill the ever-growing number of culinary jobs.

True to our reputation as “dot-connectors,” SIR was uniquely positioned to help Reynolds explore and plan for ways to collaborate with community partners — particularly given our recent Millennials research for the placemaking initiative Richmond’s Future. SIR helped the college build and navigate strategic partnerships with people and groups that shared its desire for the city to have a premier culinary institute. We also helped the school develop a “microbusiness” plan to fund the innovative effort. 

Results: The rebranded Culinary Institute at Reynolds is under development in 2017, yet it expects its size and enrollment to double in its first few years based on interest to date. New internships have been developed with top restaurants across the region. Community events with guest chefs are in the works. Donors and sponsors have committed vital program funding. Combined, these opportunities work to drive economic, workforce, and community growth in the city’s lower-income East End area and across the Richmond region.

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