Popular local restaurant strengthens its Roots

Roots on the Corner grows and changes as employees help keep the line running smoothly

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Roots has expanded to Richmond and Newark, Del. and is in the process of opening stores in Pittsburgh and Austin, Texas.

Christina Anton | Cavalier Daily

If you walk around Grounds on any given day, you’re pretty much guaranteed to see students strolling on the Lawn holding a fresh El Jefe Roots bowl. Even though it hasn’t been on the Corner long, Roots and its employees hold an important place in the University’s food culture. 

One of the Corner’s newer additions, Roots was founded in 2015 by two University graduates who developed the idea while they were students in McIntire. 

“I think you can definitely see that kind of startup, started-by-U.Va.-students kind of vibe there because there’s just like around 70 of us employees,” said second-year College student Jedidiah Park, who has been a Roots employee since August.

Roots has expanded to Richmond and Newark, Del. and is in the process of opening stores in Pittsburgh and Austin, Texas. Third-year College student Carson Butler has been working at Roots for over a year and said he has watched the company grow.

Recent changes have included the addition of a human relations employee. The creation of the HR employee position allows one person to focus their energy on ensuring paperwork is up to date and monitoring employee satisfaction. Recently, employees completed a survey about their work experience.

“We’re still trying to figure out how to integrate [the addition of HR] with what’s already in place at Roots,” said Catie Leigh, second-year College student and Roots employee. “[Roots is] a really, really young company, and it’s done insanely well, so I definitely think that with those two facts comes a little bit of disconnect while they figure things out.”

The employees, who are mostly college students, spend time together outside of work as well. 

“We have like a Roots Fitfam, and we like to do outside things together, like work out together, and hang out,” Butler said. “Work is more fun when you know employees.”

Additionally, Roots offered its employees a free class at treadHAPPY and two employees ran the Richmond Half Marathon together.

“You really lean on each other, not only information-wise because like, the way we do things you have to communicate the bowls and any modifications very specifically,” Park said.

As the restaurant expands its brand and adds more structure, the steady business keeps its employees busy. 

“Working any lunch or dinner prime-time, it’s just a constant line out the door, which was really stressful when I first started working,” Butler said. “But now its like, once you know all the bowls it’s kind of fun to try and help everyone move as quickly as possible and get their bowl fast.”

Roots employees also get pretty good at predicting orders.

“People who come in here and they’re really confident and look kinda like vanilla, you know they’re gonna get the Jefe,” Park said.

Butler and Park said the El Jefe is also the most commonly ordered bowl, making it an easy prediction. 

“The Southern and Roots bowls are more like a hippie-type vibe,” Butler said.

Additionally, Roots employees have learned how to get the most out of your bowl.

“We have two different size bowls — the grain size and the salad size bowl,” Leigh said. “If you ask for half-and-half base — so half rice half whatever green you get – they put the same amount of rice you get in a grain sized bowl and more greens, so you just get a bigger salad for no extra cost.” 

Students can even skip the line by downloading the Roots app and ordering ahead to pick up their order from Root’s satellite location on 14th Street.

“It’s a game changer,” Butler said. “I think a lot of people don’t know about [the other location] and then won’t go because of the line, but it’s a good hack.”

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