Villanova Students Meet Daily Table

Today was the semi-annual Villanova School of Business Bartley BriefCase Challenge. The event is held each semester for our junior business majors and involves their analysis of a Harvard Business School case. If you would like to learn more about it, here is a post I wrote a couple of years ago that describes how the competition works.

The case chosen this year was about Daily Table, a Boston-area nonprofit community grocer dedicated to providing fresh, tasty, convenient and nutritious food to communities most in need at prices everyone can afford.

Here is some info about the company, from its web site:

We believe that delicious and wholesome food should be available to all. We help communities make great food choices by making it convenient and affordable to choose tasty and fresh meals and groceries. By partnering with a network of growers, manufacturers, and other suppliers, we source high-quality food at low costs and make it available to everyone in our communities at prices designed for even a SNAP budget.

Our stores provide a selection of fresh produce, grocery staples and made-from-scratch prepared foods at prices low enough to fit within every budget. We believe in providing a shopping experience that fosters a sense of agency around your health (you can afford to eat well!), and the dignity of providing a helping hand, not a handout. We believe in creating livable wage jobs, with a strong preference for hiring directly from our neighborhoods.

Our unique retail model means that every dollar donated is matched at the cash register with more than two dollars of earned revenue. As we grow, we become more financially sustainable and less dependent upon philanthropy. Literally every shopper is a funder!

Our goal is to generate funding through the delivery of our mission, not simply for the delivery of our mission, allowing us to focus all of our attention on our mission instead of fundraising.

In the case study the students were asked to analyze, management of Daily Table had to think about what to do about its employee wages. The grocer had raised starting wages to $15/hour a couple of years ago, and then last year they added a $2 per hour rate hike because of COVID-19.

Now that COVID was starting to get under control, they were trying to decide whether to lower the wage back to where it used to be, and if so, how to do so. In addition, the students had to think of any other strategic initiatives that Daily Table could implement in order to further its mission.

It was another wonderful case that challenged our students to apply their business knowledge to help an organization that was committed to making a difference in its local community.

I wish Daily Table all the best, and if I ever get up to Boston, it will be on my list of places to visit.

Here is a video that offers some insight into Daily Table:

29 thoughts on “Villanova Students Meet Daily Table

    1. I think you are right; it’s hard to cut somebody’s wages, especially after they just put in all that time during covid… I would imagine cutting wages could turn into a PR nightmare…

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I also like the mission of this nonprofit. I agree that the workers should be rewarded for having worked through the pandemic. There may also be other forms of compensation in terms of benefits that the employees might appreciate.

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  1. I think it’s hard anytime wages are lowered for workers. It’s hard to process working just as hard for less money, especially if he/she has been doing a good job.

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  2. What a great organization and business model. Too often these types of places are heavily reliant on outside donations and grants. Turning this into a self-sustaining venture makes this a workable model in any underserved areas. I agree with most that the reduction of personal wages is a hard sell. But I look forward to you sharing some of the ideas the bright Villanova students come up with. Great post, Jim!

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  3. Daily Table looks like a terrific organization with a goal of making money while improving lives in the community. If it figures that out, it should use the model in all communities. Regarding the case, Daily Table should not lower wages unless doing so was an explicit part of the deal or lowering wages is necessary to remain in business.

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  4. We have these sorts of community initiatives here too, Jim. They often fail because they are not competitive. The bottom line with a business is that it has to make enough money to cover its costs and so you can’t pay out more than you earn. This seems to be a foreign concept to a lot of people involved in these sorts of initiatives locally. They seem to think you can operate indefinitely at a lost. Our government seems to have the same idea, which is why all our parastatals are in huge financial trouble. Can this company afford to maintain the $17 per hour wage and still break even. Also, if there are shareholders who have contributed money they expect a return on their investment, that is how business works. Just my two pennies.

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    1. well said, Robbie. And this business is trying to get to the point where they are completely self-sustaining; I think right now customers help pay for 70% if operations, the rest is raised through donations.

      Part of the problem with the analysis is trying to quantify the benefits of keeping the wage at $17 per hour. It’s easy to measure the cost difference between paying $17 and $15, but measuring the dollar benefit of rescued turnover and more productive, engaged employees is challenging. Fortunately, the guy running this organization was CEO of a successful grocery store chain and seems to understand the importance of trying to cover your costs.

      Had to look up what a parastatal is – interesting concept. I’m guessing that’s how many of China’s companies are organized…

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      1. Sorry, Jim, I didn’t realise it wasn’t a well known term. It is so common here. Parastatals are not a good idea. They often result in protected jobs filled by unproductive people with no innovation. They become the dinosaurs of business and hold back progress with red tape.

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