Jonelle Jones, co-owner of Kind Food; photo by Jennifer Wetzel
With every order up at Kind Food’s Iron District-forged counter, Kansas City becomes a little more compassionate — or at least compassion-curious, Jonelle Jones said, dishing on the do-good mission and plans for growth that will soon take the North Kansas City-based restaurant into the heart of Kansas City, Kansas.
Chef Phillip and Jonelle Jones of Kind Food; photo by Jennifer Wetzel
“Eat more plants and be good to people,” Jones, who co-founded the plant-based, vegan fast casual concept in 2018 with her husband Chef Phillip Jones, said simply, sharing the company’s tagline and its (organic) roots.
“When we started developing a concept for the type of company we wanted to start, we always had this vision to do something a little bit bigger and more meaningful with it — beyond [helping] the economy and making money,” she recalled, noting the couple has successfully cooked up and served an infectious attitude of kindness that’s inspired friends, family, customers and business partners to treat the planet and each other with more kindness and understanding.
“Something that’s been a priority from the very beginning is not just having a restaurant that makes lots of money — but having a restaurant that’s able to address things. … We want that idea to drive the decisions we’re making in our business.”
And, so far, it has, Jones continued, announcing such a mission will soon lead Kind Food into KCK — where it is expected to become the city’s first all plant-based, vegan restaurant — and toward new opportunities to give back.
Click here to learn more about Kind Food, its mission and its menu of plant-based favorites like the cocoBLT or the spicy buffalo meta burger.
“I think KCK is, generally, underserved in the food arena. There’s a lot of people who don’t have easy access to fresh produce and healthy foods.
Moving into the community is giving us an opportunity to work with organizations that are there to increase access, to educate and make connections,” she said, noting food insecurity and access to healthier restaurant options are two challenges she and her husband hope the move allows them to tackle from day one.
“We’re really excited for the opportunity to bring easier access and some education to the community and the ability to make connections and talk with people [and say,] ‘Here’s a more sustainable way to eat — and it’s accessible. It’s not super expensive; and it’s delicious,’” Jones said.
Operations at the restaurant’s Iron District location are expected to wind down in December. Its new space is on-pace to open in January, pending any unforeseen delays in construction brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, she added.
While Jones is focused on what the future holds for the restaurant, she’s also reflective.
From food to cash to time, Kind Food has in its three-year journey contributed more than $22,000 to dozens of organizations that include the likes of Kansas City PBS and The Bridge, Kanbe’s Markets and Generating Income for Tomorrow (Kansas City G.I.F.T).
“As we build a community of customers and have this platform to communicate with them and connect with them, [we ask] what are we doing with that? How are we using that? One way is by having the conversation and saying [giving back] can be a priority in a business,” Jones said.
“We’ve contributed a percentage of sales or a percentage of profit. We’ve also done item drives and sponsor drives, which are some of my favorite [ways to help] because those tend to have the biggest impact on organizations.”
Kind Food is set to aid Kansas City G.I.F.T in its fundraising efforts again in 2022, Jones said. The restaurant will also assist Free Thought KC in an early November fundraiser and contribute to the winter feed and warming needs of the KC Pig Rescue Network.
“If we can take what we have and put a little good out there, then that good and the people that receive it might be inspired to do the same or might make a connection with someone that allows their vision to grow.”
Such karma could also help Kind Food fully realize its mission, she added. The restaurant is currently running a series of donor specials on its website designed to help fund the opening of its new space.
“We’re growing and we have momentum, but we also have this issue of the economy and supply chain affecting costs and timelines,”
she laughed, noting the impact of the pandemic on the economy, the economy on the supply chain, and the supply chain on small businesses.
“That’s definitely intimidating, but at the same time, we believe that it’s supposed to happen and it’s all going to work out. We’ve been working really hard to reinvest in the business and to secure funding from resources that aren’t going to stretch us,” Jones explained, detailing Kind Food’s newly launched “supporter bundles” — tiered merch packages with donor benefits such as name recognition displayed on a supporters wall in its new space.
Kind Food is hiring! Click here to apply for open positions at its soon-to-open KCK restaurant.
Buffalo Chik’n Nachos from Kind Food; photo by Jennifer Wetzel
“It’s a way to give our customers a hand in [building] the space so they can feel like it’s theirs [and more of a ] community creation. … We’re able to take those funds and put them into making it perfect for them to enjoy,” she said.
“Opening a restaurant is not for the weak of heart. It’s been very, very challenging at times. But we’re definitely excited and we’re really grateful for all the support we’ve received so far. Our community is amazing,” Jones continued.
“If we can put a little good in the community and help nurture it and grow it and it can multiply, hopefully that can have an impact that affects us and affects our children and our community in a positive way.”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.
For more information, visit www.kauffman.org and connect at www.twitter.com/kauffmanfdn and www.facebook.com/kauffmanfdn
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