The Friends Global Model: Vocational training restaurants bringing marginalized youth into employment

The Friends Global Model: Vocational training restaurants bringing marginalized youth into employment

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$1 million - $5 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Friends-International (FI) has for 16 years, implemented projects that support children, youth and families who live at-risk lifestyles by circumstance or force.

FI links, shares best practices with and offers training to the private sector, Civil Society and State actors to improve protection and sustainable reintegration mechanisms afforded to vulnerable children.

Through this project, I hope to bring bring employment/education through quality vocational training to those too vulnerable or marginalized to acquire it.

Based on a socially viable franchise model, the project provides effective and replicable social business tools. It supports sustainable development by sourcing organic, local produce and protects local heritage by reviving traditional recipes/cooking techniques.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Friends-International (FI) began working with street children and youth in 1994. It is estimated that there are 150 million street children around the world. Since then we have expanded our services to support other groups of marginalized children including those who are living and working on the streets, using drugs, affected by HIV, migrants, in prison or detention, victims of abuse, domestic violence or poverty, and those whose internationally recognized rights as children are denied or inaccessible for various reasons. The present project will focus on children and youth aged 15-24 years old as the legal age for accessing vocational training is 15 years in most countries. The franchisees that FI is targeting are local social enterprises and NGOs providing services to similar groups of vulnerable youth. Numerous requests from such organizations have come to FI over the last 3 years, leading to the idea of creating the Friends Global Restaurant Model. Most of these organizations have visited one of the model restaurants or have heard about its success and workability through media or conferences. Although its action generally aims at generating income, social responsibility is a prerequisite and should never be jeopardized for income generation. The selection of franchisees is made based on a strict set of criteria and values that are mentioned on the collaboration agreement between FI and the franchisee and include: - Legal frameworks; - Social developmental philosophy and approaches; - Best practice service provision to target groups; - Environmental footprint - Statutory and non-for-profit management - Strict financial management and financial transparency - Communication and funding policies

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

My project will encourage a shift in image and activities associated with a 'franchise' (of which business successes are reliant on low paid jobs, little social promotion and standardized menus/looks) by presenting the 'Friends franchise model' as a strong social leveraging tool with localized tastes and social support for its young trainees. The restaurants will research and serve recipes often forgotten, giving young people a renewed sense of identity and reviving local culture and traditions; the model will not reflect a standardized taste as in most franchises do, but rather a standardized quality with tastes unique to their location. In other words, this franchise model is free to replicate itself, each time, acquiring and reflecting the culture, cuisine and tastes of the country or province where it is established. The Friends model will expand through replication. It will be quick to start-up and is based on proven business models as well as a sustainable social business support model. It will provide NGOs/other organizations interested in applying it with an entire package of social and business tools, high quality vocational training modules, links to social support systems, and monitoring/follow up training by the Friends International. Even though there are other organizations that have started up similar projects in Phnom Penh, the Friends restaurants remain the top 2 restaurants in the city-competing with large businesses and chains. The model has already proven that it works well and our trainees have opened their own restaurants and businesses.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

- Continue operating the model training restaurants providing marketable vocational skills to vulnerable youth aged 15-24. Besides professional skills, the youth receive basic literacy (mother tongue, English), math and micro business skills training. Upon graduation, students receive job placement support and follow up during a year at minimum--helping them acquire much needed skills for self employment or the hospitality/Food & beverage job industry. - Promote the model training restaurants within the social enterprise and NGO community to ensure expansion and support - Continuously assess the use of and improve training, marketing and monitoring tools to ensure the model's highest quality in service provision and training afforded - Support franchisees to build their capacities by establishing their social business team - Training and support for teachers and staff at each of the franchise restaurants by the FI international hospitality team (Food & Beverage / services trainers, quality monitors, social workers and marketers.) - Monitor the success of the franchisees and run regular social impact evaluations so that the project remains advantageous to the trainees and their communities, and to ensure the quality of all franchisee operational standards - Promote the franchise business and local cuisines through special events such as seasonal/weekly menu specials that feature more traditional recipes and cooking techniques, local guest chefs; spin-offs such as cookbooks;linking with credible organizations that are interested in the franchise model; linking with organizations working with local farmers/organic ingredient producers.
About You
Friends International
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name

Friends International

Organization Country
Country where this project is creating social impact

, PP

How long has your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

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What stage is your project in?

Operating for less than a year

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

An excerpt from the introduction to “Best Of Friends-The Restaurant” Cookbook:
“My journey began on my last day traveling in Cambodia, when upon leaving a restaurant, the sight of a luxury vehicle driving past a group of children sleeping on cardboard boxes on the street stirred me deeply. I decided to stay on, and with the financial support of two friends, set up ‘Street Friends’ in Phnom Penh.
In August 1994, with a team of 3 Cambodians, some of whom still work with me, we opened the first center. 10 days on, all the children had left except for one. This is when we learned our first, most important lesson: we thought we knew what was best for the children and wanted to provide what we thought they needed-but we were wrong. They preferred the cool floor tiles to the mattresses we provided; we prepared a classroom-but they did not care about literacy-they wanted jobs. We learned to listen to the children and from then on, they have been guiding our work.
The FI vision is to uplift children with dignity, reintegrate them back into society as productive citizens and change negative attitudes towards them.
Vocational training (VT) quickly emerged as an essential need/request for/by the young people we worked with. We started the first VT restaurant in 2002, and set up a new one approx. every 3 years. We have received many requests from organizations willing to start similar projects that yield strong social/financial profits. In response, the idea for a franchise model was born, accepted by my core team and main partners—and here I am, presenting it to you”.

Social Impact
Please describe how your project has been successful and how that success is measured

16 years on since its establishment, FI is more than a non-profit that builds futures for formerly marginalized youth through education, training, reintegration and empowerment; it’s also a social enterprise promoting replicable models of social business with originality and success; investing profits in sustainable service expansion throughout its programs (social programs are 30% sustainable in 2010 from business profits). In 2010, FI provided services to over 23,000 children/youth in Cambodia, LaoPDR, Thailand and Indonesia.
At three restaurants (run by around 130 former street youth in training) customers can experience local cuisine, culture and ambience whilst contributing to helping the students gain the skills and confidence they require to work in the hospitality industry. Friends the Restaurant with its tapas-style menu is currently rated #1 restaurant in Phnom Penh on both Tripadvisor and Lonely Planet. Romdeng, serving creative food inspired by traditional recipes from Cambodia’s provinces, holds the #2 spot. Makphet, based in Vientiane, Lao PDR, serving food inspired by traditional Laotian cuisine, was recognized by the 2009-2010 Miele Guide as one of Asia’s best restaurants, and is currently in the #1 spot on tripadvisor. Each restaurant has published award winning cookbooks featuring rediscovered recipes, local culture and food customs (Makphet students traveled 3,000km, visiting four ethnic tribes in preparation of theirs) and are sold through a global network of partners.
The success of the Friends model is measured through:
- # of trainees
- # trainees placed in employment
- # trainees still in employment after 12 months
- Net profit increase of restaurant
- % of profit reallocated to sustain social services besides the restaurants
- customer satisfaction

How many people have been impacted by your project?


How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?


How will your project evolve over the next three years?

As the franchise model expands geographically, it will reach a more diverse customer base that would also include local customers (in the more developed cities). The majority of our current customers are tourists/travelers; many of whom are interested in ‘giving back’ to the local community but don’t know how. As the franchise grows, it will be replicable not only in developing countries, but also in high income countries as marginalized populations and underemployment are problems of both the developed and developing world.
The model restaurants will be able to expand around itself as it grows in scope. Provision of wider range of: social support, business start-up support for trainees and other skills training (home based income generating alternatives)cookbooks, retail shops.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

Funding: As a social enterprise, raising funds for the core team and activities is a difficult task. However, it is expected that the income from the franchised restaurants will ensure the project becomes self sufficient over the years. As in the case of current FI restaurants, the income generated by the restaurants sustain all running costs from the restaurants, the training costs, teacher salaries and the cost of the social support offered to the trainees. The profit eventually also supports other FI social projects in the city or province where the restaurant is located.

Lack of support from the local F&B communities: It is difficult at first to compete with already established restaurants in terms of status or image, considering the fact that our most successful training restaurants are linked to social image. The project maintains quality of service and customer satisfaction as the most important elements of success, while the ‘social image’ comes second. Our restaurants have already proven that quality service, presentation and the social cause behind it, is what shapes our social image and draws a strong customer base.

Legal issues: Depending on the country they operate in, the franchisees have to register under different legal status to be able to provide vocational training and to operate as a business at the same time. The tax payments are often very different depending on the status adopted. The franchise model requires access to legal services regularly and to maintain close communication with the concerned authorities.

Tell us about your partnerships

The Skoll foundation has pledged part funding for developing this project over a 3 year period (2011-2013) while also supporting us to raise the project’s profile in media and to connect with key stakeholders.

The Schwab Foundation supports us to present and advocate our model of social business where social profit comes first.

The partnerships with local UNICEF offices in every country where we operate allow us to be on top of local issues and law-making related to vulnerable children and youth

Our participation with local networks of social service providers (NGOs, government services) allows us to ensure that the trainees are able to access a holistic range of social support (lodging, emotional support, medical care).

Explain your selections

The FI projects are supported through:

- Grants from UN and other multilateral organizations, International NGOs, Foundations and Trusts(more than 50% of resources): Give2Asia, UNICEF, European Union, World Health Organisation, Save the Children Australia, Dan Church Aid, World Childhood Foundation, Aide et Action, The Global Fund, Mainline Foundation, Deutsche Bank, Skoll Foundation, Goutte d’Eau-a Child Support Network, CLSA Chairman’s Trust, Evert En Gisela Boudewijn Stichting and Wise Foundation.

- Donations from Governments (approx 15%): governments of developed nations offer grant aid directly through their missions/embassies in the recipient country or by channeling funds through international or bilateral organizations.
French Embassy, US and Australian Embassies

- Revenue from social businesses (approx 30% of resources): businesses providing hands on vocational training to youth and shops selling products made by caregivers of vulnerable or at-risk children.

- A small % of resources come from donations of individuals. This represents non profit organizations and individuals who are not covered by specific grant agreements—This is a source of funding that the organization is currently developing.

How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?

This year (2011), the next step is to develop the overall standards for the franchise model, to apply them to all the restaurants currently operating (Makhpet, Friends the restaurant and Romdeng mentioned above) and to use them as the basis to develop the model across the region; (Objective is 8 restaurants, together with the existing restaurants, by 2014).

FI will develop a multidisciplinary and multicultural team composed of chefs, a designer, marketing officers, a legal adviser and social workers. It will include personnel originating from the countries where I am going to develop the model restaurant and aware of the culture and of personnel used to working in an international environment. This team will be extremely mobile with a base in Phnom Penh, Cambodia where the FI headquarters office are located.

In 2011, the first franchisee (in Kampong Som, Cambodia) will establish its restaurant. Over 2012 and 2013, 5 more restaurants will be established.

The communication of the project will start at the end of 2011 to focus on existing restaurants and to promote a social franchise developed in South Asia but which will expand to higher income countries in Europe and America.

Which barriers to employment does your innovation address?
Please select up to three in order of relevancy to your project.


Lack of skills/training




Lack of efficiency

Please describe how your innovation specifically tackles the barriers listed above.

Lack of skills/training: by increasing the number of training providers that specifically target vulnerable youth and:

- Literacy / numeracy: most trainees are illiterate or school dropouts. Administered through tailored teaching methods.

- Behavioral change: work with a team of peers/relationships with teachers/direct interaction with customers

- Entrepreneurship training: trainees are involved in the management cycle of a restaurant (goods purchase/stock management/menu design/monitoring of P&L)to gain hospitality business start up knowledge

The project tackles underemployment as its ultimate goal to support youth who have been involved in low paid and often dangerous/illegal labor into a professional occupation with reasonable financial and social benefits.

Are you trying to scale your organization or initiative?
If yes, please check up to three potential pathways in order of relevancy to you.


Influenced other organizations and institutions through the spread of best practices


Grown geographic reach: Multi-country


Please describe which of your growth activities are current or planned for the immediate future.

Current growth plans includes developing the profile of the 3 existing training restaurants:
- Media attention : visits from famous chefs, display in travel magazines and tour guides (Friends Restaurants already featured in local/international magazines/visited by international chef, Gordon Ramsey, feature special on BBC's Alvin's from Guide to Good Business)
- Development of by products: cook books, aprons, thsirts….

Next year:
- 4 restaurants will be established: 1 in Thailand, 1 in Indonesia, 2 in Cambodia (Siem Reap and Kampong Som)
- Promotion of the franchise concept will be initiated (so far only advertising of individual restaurants took place)

Do you collaborate with any of the following: (Check all that apply)

Government, NGOs/Nonprofits, Academia/universities.

If yes, how have these collaborations helped your innovation to succeed?

Government: support us to ensure our training restaurants are in line with national vocational training requirements/and that they recognize the diplomas of the students/provide administrative support for students with ID documents (family books, birth registration numbers)

NGOs: help us ensure that we are able to provide holistic social support to the trainees (who might have been living on the streets, or coming out from prison, before starting training): medical care, lodging, contact with families

Universities: through presentations to students, help us show that the industry can have a social impact and can be used as a social actor (e.g. national university in Laos and Cambodia, the countries where there are restaurants currently)