Opening a cafe has long been recognised as a venture done for passion or purpose, and very rarely with the first priority being profit. So when one opens a consumer facing business in the hospitality industry, with the aim of donating proceeds to social enterprise, why—and perhaps a bigger question, how—do they do it?
For many, the cause may be something they care about, but their skill set is based on years of working in and understanding hospitality. It’s knowledge they can bring to the table, a talent that can be monetised and served up, and a way they can pay it forward. Here’s just some of Melbourne’s inspiring stories, that—hopefully—will promote a more broadly implemented change.
Long Street Coffee
Duo Jane and Francois Marx opened Long Street Coffee in Richmond as an initiative to help provide training, experience, and community engagement in the hospitality industry, to young refugees that otherwise weren’t being given a chance. Prior to opening Long Street Coffee, Francois Marx had spent time volunteering to teach young refugees how to make coffee, while Jane Marx was an English-language tutor for refugee women living in Collingwood. Both came from an extensive hospitality background, and realised through their volunteer work that young refugees were widely not being given the same opportunity for employment as others. ‘We wanted to open Long Street, as essentially we saw it as the best way of combining both our skills and passion to help young refugees begin the journey of re-building their lives here.’ Says Jane Marx.
Starting out as a Crowdfunding campaign, the pair were astounded by the huge support from the community. ‘We were overwhelmed by the number of complete strangers who donated large sums of money, wrote beautiful emails in support of what we were doing, and offered to do whatever they could to help us.’ Says Marx. Young asylum seekers and refugees from around the world have worked with Long Street Coffee, and Marx tells us they all arrive with vastly different backgrounds, and also different expectations of what life in Australia will be like. ‘I think the only commonalities are that they’ve all been very hard working and unwilling to let their time in detention or their journey of seeking asylum prevent them from chasing their dreams.’ She says.
Sometimes the satisfaction doesn’t just come from the big picture, but the unexpected improvements. ‘It’s very rewarding to see our trainees acquiring skills that you know are going to make a big difference to their employment prospects long-term. But I also love everything else that happens around that, [such as] the improved self-confidence, and the relationships that they form with each other and our customers,’ says Marx. ‘The skills they learn are vital, but over time I’ve come to realise that the traineeship at Long Street involves a lot more than just learning to make good coffee.’
Another positive reflection for Jane and Francois Marx is seeing their ideas realised and enjoyed by the community that supported them, such as when they witness loyal customers that stood by, donated or volunteered from day one, coming into the cafe. ‘I always feel quite a sense of accomplishment when our trainees are serving them. It’s like witnessing the whole thing come full circle.’ Says Marx. She predicts that aside from generous community support, many customers may not realise the goal behind Long Street Coffee. ‘Most of our customers come because the food and coffee is exceptional!’
Coe & Coe
Coe & Coe is a tucked away cafe in the backstreets of Cremorne, that not only serves up ripper coffee and panini, but also smashes out some of the best hospitality on offer in Melbourne. Part-owner Nathan Coe felt it was important they did something that would give back, and felt that Buy1GIVE1 was an idea that aligned well with the cafe’s morals and vision—which brother and Co-owner Damien Coe will proudly demonstrate is one of all-encompassing inclusivity, and welcome.
When purchasing food from Coe & Coe—we recommend their spicy tuna panini, or their kick-ass acai bowl—proceeds go towards planting grain and crops in Ethiopia, rendering the ability to nourish a family in need. ‘It’s not just a piece of bread for a day. It’s seed that grows a crop that keeps on providing for a family.’ Says Nathan Coe. If you’re looking for something to quench your thirst (and your desire to do good), beverage purchases translate towards providing clean drinking water for those that don’t have access to it.
The concept of buying one, and giving one, is one that team Coe & Coe not only see as achievable, but sustainable, too. ‘For me, doing it this way, it’s got longevity’, says Coe. Rather than relying on donations, the idea is that normal, every day purchases result in changing the bigger picture—and you don’t have to be a philanthropist to do it. ‘Not everybody has massive deep pockets,’ he says. ‘So you come in and buy a coffee; you’ve helped. It’s not us that’s helped, you guys have paid for someone to get some sort of nourishment.’
Feast of Merit was opened as a social enterprise restaurant initiative by Ygap, a company that stands for Y-Generation Against Poverty. ‘The guys that started Ygap, figured out a long time ago that the smartest white people in the world, can’t fix the poorest people’s problems,’ says Head Chef of Feast of Merit, Jarryd Goundrey. The solution they came up with was to source local leaders with great ideas—which Ygap label: Local Impact Entrepreneurs—and support them to help their own communities.
Providing great service and product to both those aware and unaware of the charitable initiative, is something Feast of Merit has in common with both Long Street Coffee and Coe & Coe. ‘What we need to do is deliver a product that stands on its own two feet and doesn’t lean off the fact that we are a social enterprise.’ Goundrey tells us. Two and a half years later, simple heads through the door would indicate that the product and service Feast of Merit is dishing up, is of top quality.
For those that do know and support the idea, Feast of Merit has seen everything from little old ladies offering to bring in a box of lemons, to those going next door to Ygap to find out how they can donate. A concept that goes hand in hand with generosity, is one of sharing food, and Feast of Merit also promotes the idea of a sharing-style menu. When questioned as to the reasoning behind employing a restaurant as a means to generate enough income to implement change, Goundrey tells us it’s not just about the monetary result, and that operating a restaurant holds immense value in generating awareness. ‘It’s a marketing tool. We have 2000 people that walk through the door. And when they have a coffee, or a meal, they learn about what we do… Essentially we’re a massive billboard that sells coffee.’
So can one or two hospitality businesses with great ideas really change the way the privileged and unaware operate? ‘I think if you look back in time, at one stage people thought it was outrageous that the world was round, and people thought it was outrageous that women could vote, and people thought it was outrageous that people of colour could have any say,’ says Goundrey. ‘I think in 200 years we’ll think it was outrageous that there was once a time in our lives that people grew up hungry. One hundred percent: you can definitely change people’s mind set.’