MSU business students work on project to benefit local pay-what-you-can restaurant
from MSU News Service
BOZEMAN — The efforts of students in a Montana State University business class may help bring increased revenue to a local nonprofit, according to those familiar with the work.
Accounting students in Montana State University’s Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship recently worked on a financial and accounting research project to benefit the local Fork and Spoon, a pay-what-you can restaurant in Bozeman.
The accounting students, all part of the college’s master’s program in professional accountancy, conducted research on the organization – which included volunteering at the establishment – to suggest ways for Fork and Spoon to increase its financial performance. Operated by the Human Resource Development Council, Fork and Spoon runs primarily on donations.
Ed Gamble, associate professor of accounting in the MSU Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship, led the class. He said the goal of the project was two-fold: First, to encourage students to be active in the community, and second, to help Fork and Spoon continue to be viable so the restaurant can continue to help those in need.
As part of their class work, the students were asked to do two shifts at Fork and Spoon – one as a volunteer and a second as a customer. Afterward, they were tasked with creating a two-page business proposal.
Leah Smutko, head chef at Fork and Spoon, said the students specifically were asked to identify solutions for increasing public interaction with Fork and Spoon, as well as for increasing overall donations from those having dinner at the restaurant. She said one proposal, in particular, that students suggested holds potential for Fork and Spoon: to alter its pricing structure.
Currently, customers at Fork and Spoon are asked to pay before they sit down, as is the practice at most fast casual restaurants, Smutko said. She said the students reasoned that shifting the practice to presenting a “bill” at the end of the meal, and then asking customers to evaluate their financial abilities and overall experience at the restaurant, would give the most accurate representation of what diners are actually able to contribute.
“We were able to understand how to tailor our needs to direct the project in a more specific way,” Smutko said. “The research that these students did gave us a great foundation to discern how the general population views Fork and Spoon and how to control that perspective for the better.
“These students were engaged and deliberate about their time here,” Smutko added. “I sincerely appreciate the effort not only on the (research proposals), but the boots on the ground work that they did to help us run dinner service.”
Student Will Dorwart said that his favorite thing about the project was the opportunity to see their classroom work have a real impact in the community.
“This project allows us, as students, to get out of the classroom and apply the concepts and theory we’ve been learning over the last four-plus years in a real-life scenario that should return a positive benefit for the community,” Dorwart said. “It’s nice to be able to give back to the community with everything the community does to support the university.” •