Curt’s Café in Evanston, IL; Dining, Community Health and Restorative Justice for All

According to the Preamble of the Constitution of the World Health Organization “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Simply put, health is the ability to thrive not just to survive.

For many formerly incarcerated or proven at-risk youth, even a short period of confinement dramatically affects their ability to thrive outside incarceration. These youth have little hope of securing employment, have limited work skills and few resources available to them. Because the lack of resources and community support, many of these youth return to destructive habits and cycle through the court system. According to the Justice Policy Institute, we all pay the price for recidivism: it costs more (and taxpayers foot the bill) to send a teenager to a correctional institution than it does to put them through a local, private Big 10 college like Northwestern University.

In May 2012, Curt’s Café in Evanston, IL opened for business with the mission of providing healthy and affordable meals for the community-at-large while at the same time providing the job and life skills formerly incarcerated or proven-risk male youth (between the ages of 16 and 22) needed to be successful in the work place.

Curt’s Café proposed to work with these youth, by introducing them to four disciplines:
L – Life Skills such as opening a bank account, decision-making, job readiness, making healthy food choices, and fitness
I – Intellectual Skills such as English, math and computer literacy
F – Food Service Skills in the kitchen, as baristas, counter service, and in food preparation
E – Experiential Skills by providing mentors to support the students outside the Café

To get the word out in the community, Curt’s Café first defined their target audience as Evanston residents (2 mile radius of the restaurant), men and women age 35 and older that were health conscious, concerned about their community and were socially aware. They then mounted a multi-media campaign amplifying their message and targeting, as Gladwell puts it in The Tipping Point, “connectors” within the target audience. marketing-plan-for-curts-cafe-by-kickase-marketing-roosevelt-university-39-638
Curt’s Café social media campaign is anchored around three major platforms using tag lines and attractive, meaningful visual images reflecting their brand that “everyone’s comfortable here” and “dine with a purpose” while promoting social awareness about the Curt’s Café mission. The three major platforms include:

  1. Twitter
  2. Facebook
  3. Youtube

I first learned about Curt’s Café through Facebook and traditional media. I made a point of supporting them by not only eating at the Café but hiring them to cater events with various organizations that I was involved with in the community. We found the food quality, price and service to be comparable to the neighborhood competition. The value added benefit of the mission of Curt’s Café made supporting them as a catering choice even more attractive.

Because of their successful media campaign Curt’s Café has established a loyal community following and support for their greater mission of providing the job and life skills formerly incarcerated or proven-risk Evanston youth. Recently, Curt’s Café opened their second location in Evanston dedicated to employing and training at-risk female youth as well as teen mothers. In August 2015 Curt’s Café and chef John des Rosiers will launch La Taqueria, a not-for-profit Mexican restaurant providing another opportunity to “dine with purpose” in Evanston.la_taqueria-300x150

“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him…
the people who give you their food give you their heart.”



Preamble to the Constitution of the World Health Organization as adopted by the International Health Conference, New York, 19-22 June, 1946; signed on 22 July 1946 by the representatives of 61 States (Official Records of the World Health Organization, no. 2, p. 100) and entered into force on 7 April 1948.

Gladwell, M. (2000). The tipping point: How little things can make a big difference. Boston: Little, Brown.


4 thoughts on “Curt’s Café in Evanston, IL; Dining, Community Health and Restorative Justice for All

  1. I always enjoy blogs that utilize real examples. Your blog is effective because it covers what appears to be every aspect of their promotional design. Incorporating your own personal experience on why you started to utilize Curt’s Cafe creates trust. Also explaining how you came across Curt’s Cafe through the use of social media may encourage your audience to utilize social media in their own promotions.

  2. What a heart-warming neighborhood project. I love that you used an example from your personal experience. Great utilization of user-friendly links to the 3 platforms. Also great use of compelling facts (Justice Policy Institute) and quotes (Chavez). One cool thing I thought you could have done was to embed the actual Youtube video in the blog post so the viewer was not redirected away from your blogpage.

  3. Thanks for sharing this successful example of your local nonprofit organization with unique mission and their promotional social media campaign. As you have mentioned, finding “connectors” between the project founders and target audience was a critical aspect for this project expansion.
    I liked the Curt’s Cafe YouTube video featuring a “pastry chef” lady and her personal stories about kids in training. It does spark emotional response and feeling of getting to know these people closer. It has been known, that people take action on behalf of a cause when they feel an emotional connection. So, use of video was a good choice and great execution to advance and promote this program. Also positive impression was supported by your own connection to the Curt’s Cafe in examples you’ve provided. I think using suitable expression by C. Chavez enhanced this post.

    Thanks for an opportunity to learn about your neighborhood!

  4. Thanks for posting this Carla! I grew up in Deerfield so I am very familiar with the Evanston community. It was so great to read about a business that truly lives their mission and aims to make an impact outside of themselves. Good tie in with Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point “connectors”. Their social media campaign through Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter are obviously working well because they connected with you and you were able to connect them with events that you hosted, furthering their reach of awareness of their mission. I would really be interested to hear about how the at-risk youth who are employed by Curt’s Cafe are doing, if they are making an impact. Individual testimonials could really boost Curt’s Cafe mission and reach in the community. On another note, I really enjoyed how you wrote this blog and formatted it. It was really easy to read, great use of visuals, and kept my attention to read more. Great post Carla!

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