When the Texas-based cafe chain La La Land first opened in my neighborhood here in L.A., I assumed it was just another well-designed coffee shop ready to attract the Influencer crowd with it’s layered lattes and well-branded merch. Then, I discovered the brand’s mission and became really intrigued.
La La Land employs and mentors young people who are aging out of the foster system — their team of high-energy baristas behind the giant espresso machines and stacks of iced latte shakers aren’t just making a living, they’re also part of the La La Program that begins with 8 weeks of personal mentoring.
What you might not know about our foster system is that it ends abruptly at age 18, leaving many participants to fend for themselves without the support of a family unit.
The statistics around young people in that post-system stage are daunting, to say the least. (Think of it: do you know an 18 year old who could thrive in total independence?) Seeing a business tackle the issue in such a practical and sustainable ways give me a huge thrill.
There are a few other food-based services in L.A. who take a similar approach, from Homeboy Bakery to Heirloom LA. On-the-job training programs can be challenging to manage for any business, but can provide a slew of solutions for those aging out of foster care.
Mission-driven retail shops are rarely as experiential and well-designed as La La Land and our team is happy to see them expand with this month’s opening at The Grove (photos throughout!).
Francois Reihani is the founder of La La Land Kind Cafe. With a background in hospitality and a personal passion for supporting his community, Francois and team operate with a “kindness first, coffee second” mentality. We asked him a few questions about the business as they hustled to open their beautiful new location…
LaLaLand at The Grove, Los Angeles
there are many non-profits serving the foster system. Why a coffee shop?
After a year of pouring our hearts into the non-profit, We Are One Project, and doing our best to provide youth with housing, mentorship, job placement, and therapy my team and I realized that it wasn’t working.
Our youth couldn’t get or maintain enough jobs. That’s when I realized that I could join my two passions of hospitality and non-profit work and that’s how La La Land was born.
We wanted to choose a concept that allowed us to positively impact as many people as we could. For that reason, we chose to do coffee shops because they see so many people throughout the year, and even become part of people’s everyday lives.
Tell us what you hope employees are equipped with when they’re done. Of course we hope that they’re able to learn the regular job skills that they might have been deprived of growing up. But more than that, we hope that they learn the importance of human connection. That we all should love and understand each other to the best of our abilities.
Each location employs foster youth and those that have aged out of the foster care system. The cafe offers an eight-week internship program with paid on-the-job and customer service training, mentorship, and assistance with job placement, housing, schooling, and therapy.
Are there other organizations you’d like to highlight on this issue? We’ve partnered with the Alexandria House, a transitional home for women and children located here in Los Angeles.
What is next for the brand? Any additional LA locations planned? We have eight locations across Texas and two in L.A. We want to keep expanding. Just this month, we opened the second location LA locaion at The Grove.
Favorite order on the La La menu? La La Latte, our iced latte with la la froth, honey, espresso or matcha, milk.
What would you like customers to know about their experience with you? Our only hope and goal when a customer walks in is that they feel a sense of happiness and acceptance — that they are reminded of how important simple acts of kindness are, whether it’s through a compliment or a ‘love you’.