WOK is a restaurant in Bogotá, Colombia, founded 20 years ago. Since their origin, they decided to escape the traditional corporate canons of mission and vision and work through the DNA WOK with a clear objective of having a purer and healthier world, generating positive impacts that contribute to the well-being of the planet and the people.
For this reason, they decided to create 5 pillars that characterize their restaurant:
• WOK Experience: Provide a memorable experience to the client.
• WOK Life: Provide quality life for their workers.
• WOK Food: Provide health, safety and top quality food.
• WOK World: Have a balance with the environment.
• WOK Community: Generate positive impacts on the value chain through social responsibility practices.
Juan Sebastián Amaya Plata
Universidad Externado de Colombia
Gustavo A Yepes López
WOK has an integrated value proposition that starts from its suppliers all the way to the final customer. To achieve this, one of the strategies they use is to strengthen their personal relationships with the farmers, producers and fishermen, promoting best practices among these small communities that belong to the base of the pyramid. With this philosophy, they managed to reduce intermediaries, decrease the import of products, generate new markets, strengthen the value chain and allow communities to grow in parallel with the restaurant.
“Since the beginning of our operation, we have found the need to work with local suppliers. Part of our business model is to look for ways to replace imported products for local products. In WOK we understand that as a company we belong to something greater than simply economic benefits. We focus our actions on trying to make positive impacts on the environment and society”, admitted Simón Vieira, WOK Sustainability Director.
Initially, WOK started supplying itself with vegetables from local producers. Then, some 10 years ago they started working on one of their most important projects: wild fish captured from artisanal and responsible fishing in 4 different communities in Colombia. All the wild fish served in the dishes of WOK is captured and commercialized following 7 criteria of responsible fishing, which guarantees that the populations of these fishes are not negatively affected. Another initiative is the work they do with communities in the department of Putumayo, which in the past was known for the production of illegal crops. The restaurant currently works with communities of small farmers that decided to substitute their illegal crops for pepper and heart of palm crops, providing a new development alternative for the region.
One of the initial objectives of the restaurant was to democratize Southeast Asia food in Colombia. Food is a basic human need and sitting down to share food with our relatives, our friends or close people is a ritual that helps humans come together. WOK tries to maintain this tradition to create an innovative quality restaurant.
“We were aware that as a food business we have to follow a model that goes beyond economic impacts by trying to maximizing the benefits between the restaurant and the community. Our DNA focuses on developing actions that contribute to generating a purer and healthier world by creating jobs, generating opportunities for development, opening spaces for personal and professional growth and trying to help the communities we work with grow parallel to us”, stated the interviewee.
WOK’s business model has impacted the Colombian environment in different positive ways. In addition to its work with the communities of fishermen and small farmers in different parts of the country, the restaurant is constantly looking for new producers to continue strengthening its value chain and offering them new alternatives for personal and professional development.
Other successful cases have been developed in Caquetá, where they work with a company that grows Pirarucu in a sustainable manner to help reduce the pressure on the wild and endangered populations of this Amazonian fish. They also work with an indigenous community in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta which produces most of the honey used in all their restaurants.
Furthermore, the value proposition of WOK goes beyond buying the products from the farmers, for this reason they created an area called WOK School, where the employees of the restaurant receive courses, talks and trainings to increase their knowledge and the restaurant offers them the possibility of growing within the company.
Finally, they promote responsible consumption habits among their customers by developing communication campaigns of sustainable practices in the placemats of the restaurant. One of the most successful campaigns was called “more moustaches, less straws”, to reduce the consumption of straws, achieving a reduction of 90% in the consumption of these elements.
Some of the benefits of this successful business model have already been mentioned, WOK focuses on strengthening its value chain, reducing the amount of imported products, reducing intermediaries and generating new markets for its producers, with the aim of having a more pure and healthier world.
All these purposes are reflected in the day to day of the organization. Currently, WOK has 15 restaurants in Bogota, with a menu that offers more than 250 dishes, where more than 450 ingredients are used, many of them directly supplied by local producers. On the other hand, the wild fish offered in their dishes is 100% local and captured with practices of responsible fishing. Currently WOK works with approximately 350 suppliers, many of them are local producers located in 13 departments of Colombia.
Thanks to this business model, WOK can offer its dishes at a better price to consumers, offering a win – win for all people who have a relationship with their business, "these practices have become the root and the soul of our restaurant "stated WOK’s sustainability Director.
The social and environmental benefits of WOK’s practices, relate to nine of the Sustainable developments goals: No poverty, zero hunger, quality education, decent work and economic growth, reduced inequalities, responsible consumption, climate action, life below water and life on land. This is especially relevant considering that according to the International Labour Organization (OIT), informal labour in Colombia represents 61.3%, the highest rate compared with the rest of the world.
Currently WOK has more than 1000 employees, all of them have fair working conditions, with all the requirements of the Colombian laws and the possibility of growth inside the company. The company is constantly looking for ways to continue generating positive impacts in the community.
Simón Vieira, WOK Sustainability Director
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Bogotá, DC, Bogotá, DC, CO
Business Website: http://www.wok.com.co/wps/portal/wok
Year Founded: 1998
Number of Employees: 1001 to 5000
WOK was born in Bogotá in the year of 1998, as a space to reinterpret Asian food and make it available to everyone. Currently, they have more than 20 years of work where they focused in good cooking practices, responsible agriculture, sustainable development. In their menu they have the representative dishes of Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese and Cambodian food, among others, elaborated as much as possible, with the ingredients of the local communities. Because food is not the only important thing in their business : their employees, suppliers and customers are their allies and the environment is their home.