Restaurant continues model of giving back

Photo by Janelle Patterson The lunch crowd begins to fill seats with both families and local business employees at Joe Momma's Kitchen in Marietta Friday.

Learning a traditional for-profit business model is tough enough for entrepreneurs taking the plunge.

But expanding from child portions and light meal orders to a full-lunch restaurant while keeping a focus on charity has offered a learning curve for the Sauls family.

“But we are so fortunate to have the mentorship of some really experienced minds,” said Sara Sauls, co-owner of Joe Momma’s Kitchen.

Eric and Sara Sauls, of Lowell, first opened Joe Momma’s Kitchen in Oak Grove Christian School in October 2014, making lunches for the school’s students and offering light lunch options for those homebound in the surrounding suburb.

But the duo’s claim to fame from their opening on has been more than fresh-made lunch with flavor.

Photo by Janelle Patterson Sara Sauls greets customers at Joe Momma's Kitchen in Marietta Friday.

“Our mission has always been to serve, that’s our tagline–food with a purpose,” recalled Sara.

Each month’s tips on meals have gone a nontraditional route–local nonprofits, charities and needy causes rather than to supplement employee wages.

As the pair’s mission grew in popularity, they moved the family business into the Frontier Shopping Center in August 2018.

But then scaling up operations, meeting demand and still covering costs posed a challenge.

“It took probably three tense meetings with our advisors to really convince me we need not to give it all away,” said Sara. “That was hard for me. It was hard to hear the naysayers when we opened, saying we shouldn’t give away our tips to those in need.”

Photo by Janelle Patterson. Lunch wraps and sandwiches are prepared from scratch at Joe Momma's Kitchen Friday.

But 2019 business guidance and entrepreneurship classes offered a compromise to continue the mission while keeping the fledgling enterprise afloat.

“There were some months we weren’t able to give and cover the costs of the business,” she explained. “So we adjusted to a two-month tip recipient this year and a cap, setting aside the first $500 in tips each month to go to the recipient and still allowing us to give $1,000 if we can reach that to each.”

January and February tips this year will go toward lane time for the Marietta Marlins swim team.

“And then what we’re also offering our recipients is one night a month to hold their own fundraiser in our space free of charge. That could be a spaghetti dinner, a bingo night or, like last year for The Bauer Fund we had an art show,” Sara said.

While his wife focuses on the front-end of the business, customer care and recipient coordination, Eric has focused his efforts on streamlining the kitchen.

Photo by Janelle Patterson Eric Sauls, right, and Rylee Zimmer, prepare wraps at Joe Momma's Kitchen in Marietta Friday.

“We’ve rearranged probably three or four times to figure out what works for us,” he said. “The station for hot things I usually run, we added a fryer which our daughter Mya is usually running along with setting up the deli trays, then there’s the turkey station and of course our dishwashing.”

Eric said he’s most proud of learning to scale up the ordering and anticipation of kitchen needs to meet customer demand these last two years.

“Kids in school eat such smaller portions, but here we’re serving adults and I’m proud we’re still preparing all the food ourselves. We chop the tomatoes, the lettuce… the burrito mix is Sara’s creation,” said Eric.

And the two have expanded their offerings for vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options, too.

“And we’re trying the Friday $5 specials, all advice we’ve tried to integrate from our customers and business mentor,” Sara said.

For charities interested in applying to receive tips from the restaurant, visit joemommaskitchen.com/tip-recipient.

Janelle Patterson can be reache at jpatterson@mariettatimes.com.

Food with a purpose:

• Joe Momma’s Kitchen is a mom and pop restaurant located in the Frontier Shopping Center.

• Their mission is to serve the local community not only through meals but also through tip donation to local charities.

• In the last six years, the Sauls family has donated more than $20,000 to local nonprofits and causes.

• In 2019, the business donated $9,857.50 in total to the following causes including $300 to individuals in need at the close of the year:

• MOV Veterans Outreach.

• Alzheimer’s Association.

• Gospel Mission Food Pantry.

• The Bauer Fund.

• EVE, Inc.

• Compassionate Animal Resources for the Elderly.

• Sweetest Dreams (to aid couples who face infertility).

• The Washington County Boys and Girls Club.

• January and February tips this year will go toward lane time for the Marietta Marlins swim team.

• March and April tips this year will go toward The Bauer Fund to aid in mental health and suicide awareness efforts.

• Tip recipient applications are still being accepted for May/June, July/August, and September/October.

• To apply, visit joemommaskitchen.com/tip-recipient.

Source: Eric and Sara Sauls.