How One Restauranteur Helped Keep Her Community Working

Entrepreneurs get game-changing ideas in all sorts of unusual ways. And Shauna Smith is no exception. Soon after she and her husband, Andrew, moved to American Fork, Utah, in 2007, she ventured out for some good fast food, which, she quickly realized, she couldn’t find. “My husband and I love to eat out,” she says. “But there were no options around us. I was starving for good food.”

Rather than drive about half an hour to nearby Salt Lake City, she decided to open her own restaurant where she could get healthy eats for herself and give her neighbors, who were also itching for better food, a place to grab a bite. While her husband was a tech entrepreneur and had experience running companies, she was a stay-at-home mom, and neither of them had experience in the restaurant industry. That didn’t matter, though. “We knew nothing about the business, but we did know what we needed to do,” she says. “We started putting one foot in front of the other.”

In 2008, the Smiths bought a piece of land near where they lived and later that year they opened a Kneaders Bakery & Cafe franchise, a coffee and sandwich shop that was already popular in parts of Utah. It didn’t take long for the place to fill up and for the couple to realize that they had a hunger for hospitality. Now, their company, Four Foods Group, operates 155 restaurants, including several Kneaders locations, and numerous Mo’ Bettahs, R&R Barbeque, Swig, The Soda Shop, and Little Caesers pizza outlets.

It’s been a wild journey, but it’s happened in large part because Smith, the company president, and her husband, the CEO, wanted to make a difference in their community. The opening of their first location coincided with the recession of 2008. At the time, many people around them had lost their jobs and needed work to continue supporting their families. When they saw how many people applied for positions, they realized their restaurant could do more than just serve good food. “What really motivates us is creating jobs,” Smith says. “The community was affected in 2008 and we thought surely there must be something we can do about this.”

With 5,500 employees, the company has clearly made a difference in many people’s lives, but Smith now wants to do more than just give people a place to work. Four Foods, in addition to providing people with a place to go for a night out or a quick meal, is also trying to create good leaders who can both be empathetic and run a solid business. “I don’t like saying it too loudly, but we want to rid the world of bad bosses,” she says.

Building a difference-making business takes passion and hard work, but it also requires reliable technology, including a top-notch point of sale (POS) system. Four Foods Group is a fan of Lenovo’s POS system, which allows retail store owners to manage purchases, collect customer data, stay on top of inventory, and more. Lenovo, which incorporates its ThinkStation P320 Tiny, the world’s smallest workstation, into a third-party POS system, has a “complete package,” Smith says, including tablets to help companies maximize space, and easy-to-use digital signage, which is also powered by the Tiny.

The right POS system can help boost a company’s growth in myriad ways, she adds. For instance, it can help her see what customers like buying, what products should be abandoned, how sales perform at partcular times, and more. “It’s amazing to tap into this technology,” Smith says. “We can extract information to help us make better decisions.”

Most important, though, making a difference isn’t a solo effort. Smith has put together a staff of passionate individuals, including women, who make up half of the company’s workforce. “Women are at the front of this change and we’re doing great things,” she says.

As the company grows, and Four Foods Group plans to add 60 more stores by 2021, Smith will contine hiring people who want to work hard, support families, and make a difference. “I will continue surrounding myself with good people,” she says. “No matter what decisions I make, I always try to remember that it’s the people and the stories that are at the heart of it all.”