Candi Dailey of Ruby’s Southern Comfort Kitchen

discusses how her restaurant benefitted from the

PepsiCo’s Dig In program

Ruby’s Southern Comfort Kitchen

How did Ruby’s Southern Comfort Kitchen come to be?

My name is Candi Dailey, and I am the owner of Ruby’s Southern Comfort Kitchen with my husband, Jason. The idea for Ruby’s came as an homage to my roots. I grew up in a big household. My parents had 10 children. My dad cooked absolutely every single day, but Sundays were the big days. We had huge meals and we always fed the neighborhood. My family is from South Carolina; my dad and my grandmother, Ruby, who the restaurant is named after, both grew up there. Even after we moved to D.C., I spent my summers visiting my grandma and we would cook. I eventually went to culinary school. As I grew up and then got married, I would still be hosting events and dinners the same way my parents did and my grandma Ruby did. One day I was talking to my husband, and I had this concept for Ruby’s Kitchen, as a way to pay homage to my family. It represented how my family is and what it would be like for us to do it for the public. So, my husband knocked down a wall in the building that we leased and we opened Ruby’s up at the end of 2018, and we’ve been going at it ever since.

How did you hear about the Black Restaurants Deliver program?

I had seen it on social media. When I first saw it, I thought this may not be for us. When you first apply to things, you just don’t really know what it’s going to be or what to expect. I think it took us a couple weeks to really dig in and nail things down before we were able to commit the way we needed to. But once we did, it really took off! I was in a place with the business where I needed to know how we could scale. We’re a small business, and we don’t always have the resources the same way larger companies do. We’re not the big restaurants that have the financial capacity to do marketing campaigns and so on. So when I saw that Pepsi offered this program, I thought they could really assist us. Like, who is better than Pepsi? There’s no one bigger than Pepsi. So, I know we had to do it. Just when I started reading through the information on the website, I realized this is dope! This is phenomenal. As I got to meet the Black Restaurants Deliver team–Vanessa, Sam, Mollie–they were rockstars throughout.

There’s been a shift in restaurant operations, especially towards off-premises & digital ordering, what was your initial impression or knowledge around digital ordering & website presence?

During the pandemic, we had started the work to go online. We use Toast, and they helped us with resources throughout the pandemic to start that work, but it wasn’t a seamless process. We signed up for one third-party vendor, but that was it. So when we applied, this team was able to teach us the process to enhance the guest online experience and make it more user-friendly.

Did you have any goals or expectations before applying for Black Restaurants Deliver? Was there anything you were looking forward to learning?

I really came in wanting to learn and wanting my team to learn. For us, it was the opportunity to learn from people who are doing what we want to do. This is the goal. The goal is to be a brand like Pepsi. So who better to learn from?

Can you describe your experience with Black Restaurants Deliver program?

Phenomenal. It got to the point where I just couldn’t wait to tell them what we have going on. They were very straightforward, personable. They understood that marketing and logistics was all new to us and didn’t make us feel like we were less than. They were totally open to teaching and explaining to us things that we had no idea about. They listened to us when we gave our opinions about what works and doesn’t work. And to me that’s rare. Sometimes when you’re working with external or outsourced companies, they are firm in how they do things and are very, “this is how we do it, this is how you’ll do it.” It wasn’t like that at all. It felt more like a relationship. Even now, after the program, if there’s an issue or a little thing I know I can reach out and someone is going to answer. During the program we introduced more online ordering platforms, and the team helped streamline orders to the point of sale. Something happened to one of the platforms one weekend and a third-party platform crashed. Sam was immediately on the phone with me, and then with Toast right then and there. Those things we appreciate, because we know how valuable people’s times are. So to go over and above is amazing, and we’re extremely grateful.

Do you feel that your knowledge or skills have improved by taking the course and going through the 8-week program? Has your business changed since the program completed? 

There’s a million different things that I could point out that the program did that helped to change our business. The other day we got a $2,500 order as a result of something the team did for us. As part of the program, we learned about Search Engine Optimization with Mollie, who uses this example of a spider crawl, and how Google will crawl the web for certain keywords on websites when people search. I remember her presenting the keywords that they recommended would be successful for our website, and one of them was fried chicken. She had mentioned that once these words get placed on the website, the search engines would “crawl” for those words when people search online and it may take a month or more to see results. 

But just the other day, we got an order from the NY Mets for an online catering order. It was a huge order, and when we saw it come in, we thought “How did they find out about us?” When we asked them, they said they had Googled fried chicken and a few other keywords. These were the exact same things that Mollie had told us needed to be on the website!” So in the back of my mind, I’m thinking, “Thank goodness for Mollie.” Because we got an order from the Mets! It doesn’t get better than that.

What would you like to say if you had the opportunity to talk to other Black business owners?

Definitely apply. Everyone I know, even in the other states, I’ll send them the application and tell them you definitely need to do this. There are the little things that, as a business owner, you don’t focus on or you don’t have time for. You create things and you think that that’s how it’s supposed to be done. It may not be the best, but it’s doing what it needs to be doing. But there are actually better ways to set up your website to generate revenue.