A woman standing on a sidewalk in front of a restaurant
Running a business

Fried chicken with a side of social good: Meet Sarang Kitchen

Jennifer Low has a passion for special education of neurodivergent children. Her husband, Deon Kim, a South Korea native, has a passion for cooking. The two ingredients constitute a delicious recipe for their Toronto business venture: the Korean fried chicken restaurant Sarang Kitchen—a restaurant and social enterprise in one.

Serving neurodivergent options to diners

The couple moved to Toronto from New Zealand so Jennifer could pursue higher education. While in the city, Jennifer noticed that the restaurants were “a lot.” 

“You have loud music playing, you have a live DJ, you have live instruments, LED lights. For neurodivergent children or adults, walking into such a restaurant and having all this thrown at them would be overwhelming,” Jennifer says.

Dedicated to developing options to accommodate neurodivergent clients, Jennifer and Deon scouted potential restaurant locations. The couple looked at food court venues, but soon realized they would need a full restaurant to accommodate their vision. After a few months of searching, they found a venue with booth seats and space for a relaxation room. They also liked the “calmer and more family-oriented” location in the Bloorcourt neighbourhood. 

A variety of intentional design choices — including sensory boxes and wobble stools with weighted blankets — make Sarang Kitchen a calm and relaxing eating experience. Diners can sit on beanbag chairs or in booths, whichever option they’re comfortable with.

“We also have lights that are dimmable. So if anyone thinks the lights are too jarring, we can always turn them down,” Jennifer says.

While many Toronto restaurants have loud and often live music, Sarang Kitchen’s music is quiet and calming — and it stays that way until 9 p.m. “When you talk to your friends, you don't have to be shouting over the music,” Jennifer says.

The most important part? A multisensory room designed for people to take a break, says Jennifer. This allows diners to relax if they're overwhelmed. They can rejoin the main dining area if and when they are ready.

Dishing out inclusive hiring and training

The focus on welcoming neurodivergence extends to staff members as well, starting with an inclusive hiring process. The restaurant sends candidates questions ahead of time, offers different interview formats, and lets candidates bring a support person to interviews. Positive questions are geared toward candidates' goals and skills to assess their strengths instead of what they need support with.

Plus, Sarang Kitchen’s training modules and materials are all individualized. “We have discussions with staff on how they learn so we can better support them,” Jennifer says. 

Hiring a mix of neurodivergent and neurotypical employees is important to Jennifer and Deon.

“We want people to mingle,” Jennifer says. “That’s how neurotypical people can learn more about neurodivergence.” 

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“We also have lights that are dimmable. So if anyone thinks the lights are too jarring, we can always turn them down"

Overcoming business challenges

Connecting with the right people and vendors to get Sarang Kitchen off the ground was a challenge. “For example, there are so many payroll and accounting software companies that it was difficult to choose the right one for the restaurant,” Jennifer says.

She and Deon are grateful for the input they received from other business owners, sales representatives, and technical support teams to make these business decisions.

Using QuickBooks to simplify accounts

As a first-time business owner, Jennifer was understandably afraid of doing the accounts. It didn’t help that she had heard terrible stories about the process. However, she was relieved to see how well QuickBooks works.

“QuickBooks has made it so easy with their user-friendly software,” Jennifer says. She highlights payroll reminders as a particularly useful feature so she can remit payroll tax and Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) insurance.

Expanding their footprint

Sarang Kitchen’s mission resonates with the local community, making the emphasis on supporting neurodivergence a strength.

“All the families and people living around here, they're always really kind, accepting, and down to have a conversation,” Jennifer says. “They're always here to support you and tell you that everything's going to be OK.”

Jennifer and Deon want to open a few more locations and hire more neurodivergent talent to create more awareness. “We also want to push ourselves to expand our menu so that our team can upskill themselves while working in our company,” she says.

Jennifer is most proud when she sees team members growing and learning on the job. To encourage career growth, Sarang Kitchen asks for regular feedback from employees. “We want to keep improving so that we can be more inclusive. That's the whole idea,” Jennifer says.

Her advice to people who want to start their own small business? “Just do it! Commit to it and take it one step at a time.”

How QuickBooks Canada can help your business

By using QuickBooks to simplify payroll processing, Jennifer can focus on other aspects of running a small business. You too can lean on QuickBooks Online to be there when you’re ready to launch, run, and grow your business. Get more tips on managing employees, keeping track of invoices, and keeping an eye on inventory.


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