FRANKLIN - Franklin High School students won first place in the state ProStart management competition for their restaurant project, "Roots," the third time in a row FHS has won the top award at the state competition.

Now, seniors Mia Woloschek, Tiffany Vang, Inna Pangga and Hailey Scasny will compete at the National ProStart Invitational April 28-30 in Charleston, South Carolina.

The team has been developing their concept for months, as they started the project back in October.

Growing 'Roots'

For the held March 14 competition, the students had to come up with their own restaurant concept, complete with a menu, marketing techniques and design plan. They also had to take a cooking class to learn more about food.

In the end, they developed a restaurant with a community focus while using high-quality, local ingredients.

"With the name of Roots, wanted to focus on our relationship with the community," said Paggna.

The restaurant is set in the fictional city of ProStartville, per the contest's rules, and the students decided to invest in the fictional community, calling themselves "alumni of the high school" and focusing on supporting the local farmers.

Roots is a fast-casual restaurant serving healthy options such as sandwiches and microgreens, using food that is locally grown, showing how they want to keep their "roots" in the community.

The restaurant would also visually symbolize their "roots" with a tree growing in the middle of the dining area. The tree would have electronic leaves so diners could upload their own photos of themselves at the restaurant to be displayed on the tree.

"It connects them to the restaurant for a more personal experience," Woloschek explained.

The team also designed a roof-top garden over their restaurant where they could grow the ingredients needed for their menu, which features flatbread, acai bowls and creative sandwiches like a strawberry turkey brie panini and a loaded nacho grilled cheese sandwich.

In addition to figuring out the restaurant layout and menu, the group had to figure out a way to market their restaurant. That duty fell primarily on Scansy.

One of their most unique forms of advertising was creating a "bus wrap," an advertisement that would be pasted on to a bus and wrap around the entire exterior. To develop the concept, they worked with the Milwaukee County Transit System, who helped them understand how an ad like that works and how much it might cost.

Critical competition

The day of the competition on March 14, the students presented their restaurant concept to a panel of judges.

"The judges are looking at their concept, their interior and design, the menu, costing (or pricing development), their marketing – and there is a critical thinking component," said Linda Krause, a family and consumer science teacher at FHS and the team's coach.

After the presentation, the judges asked the team a series of "critical thinking" questions about what they would do in different circumstances, like if their food spoiled.

This, the team said, was the most difficult part of the competition.

"That was a crazy thing. We made up our own restaurant, but the questions they asked you but they might not have anything to with the restaurant concept," said Paggna.

However, the team said the judges really appreciated their teamwork during this section, and how they would quickly discuss the question among themselves before giving an answer.

On to nationals

To prepare for nationals, the team will work with mentors from around the state of Wisconsin.

"It's good for the kids to make those connections with real professionals and get that feedback," Krause said.

In the next month, the team will send in their concept to the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, who will then have chefs, owners and restaurant managers from around the state give feedback. From there, they'll tweak their restaurant concept and presentation until they have something they feel can stand up against the different teams from across the U.S.

"We have a lot of resources to guide us to nationals," Paggna said. "But I think we have a good start."

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