Eating for Good– Social Enterprise Restaurants and Cafes in Australia
Situated halfway along Swan Street in Melbourne, this isn't a hippy hangout as you may imagine if you've never frequented a social enterprise eatery before. Despite working within the sustainability field, this was perhaps a slight misconception which I held myself. Feast of Merit instead attracts a wide range of patrons, and as we sat down for lunch we were surrounded by office workers, mum's with little ones in tow, and lunching ladies.
The menu is delightful and contains many exotic middle-eastern flavour combinations and new takes on comfort breakfast / brunch food. We choose three plates to share – organic chicken pieces, roasted carrot and beetroot with a spiced purée, and eggplant with lentils and dill. We enjoy our flat whites and read the handly-placed leaflets about the enterprise and its mission whilst we waited – thumbs up from the boyfriend on the coffee. The food is presented professionally, as you'd expect in a higher-end restaurant, and it’s incredibly tasty (especially the chicken! I don't know what seasoning they use but blimey that was good), super interesting and healthy to boot.
Given the price, which nudges a teeny bit towards the higher end of our backpacking budget, the quality is fantastic. My only tiny quibble was that the portion size of the roasted carrots and beets was rather small – doubling the portion would be great. We knew we should have also ordered the cauliflower side too (our server did suggest this when we ordered.) However, if that is the only gripe I can find then I think we're ok. The atmosphere, presentation, taste and service makes it more than worth it.
I noted that they don't stop at food when doing good. In the bathrooms 'Thank You' hand wash graces the sinks, which is a really nice touch. Thank You is another Australian social enterprise devoted to providing clean water and sanitation.
A recent update on the Feast of Merit’s website states that ‘As of May 2017, 285 YGAP impact entrepreneurs across East Africa, South Africa and the Pacific have significantly and measurably changed the lives of 304,865 people living in poverty since completing the YGAP accelerator program.’ Measuring and understanding impact is a huge success indicator for any social enterprise or charity, and usually the most difficult thing to quantify. To see it communicated clearly is brilliant.
As far as eating for a good cause goes, I think we’re off to a good start. The bar has been set high.
Feast of Merit
117 Swan St, Richmond VIC 3121, Australia
Gratia and Folonomo in Sydney turned out to be my dream café, and I am still thinking about their granola one month later. Located on a residential corner of Surry Hills, the café is in a prime location for weekend wanderers and by the time I arrived at 10am it was bustling, with many people lined up outside of the open-fronted café waiting for take-out coffees.
I’d been jogging and had placed Gratia alluringly at the end of my jog route – of course I’ll run quicker if there’s the promise of some deliciousness at the end of it. And deliciousness that does good, even better. Gratia is the café arm of Gratia and Folonomo, a social enterprise that donates 100% of its profits to charity: 50% to its own Pure Foundation and 50% to customer nominated charities. The Pure Foundation manage several initiatives such as Folo, an application which sits on your internet browser and when you shop at any Folo participating retailer Folo donates a percentage of your purchase directly to your pre- chosen charity. Neat idea.
Despite the drizzle, I sat outside at the front of the café, sheltered by the large umbrellas and perused the menu. The breakfast-come-brunch-come-lunch menu was really well thought out and although tight, it had everything you could want from simple toast and jam to superfood salads and hearty baked eggs. The salads sounded so good, that I nearly swayed into ordering leaves for breakfast. But the massive post-jog craving for granola was too strong to ignore. A big bowl of chunky oats and nuts arrived, topped with poached rhubarb and pear and served with a pot of yogurt and little bottle of milk on the side. So simple and so good!
For those who want to eat nutritious, wholesome food in a laid-back environment this is your place. There is a clear health-conscious ethos at Gratia, and as I went to pay at the counter I clocked the brilliant array of raw treats and cakes on display – gluten-free, diary-free and protein-boosting snacks catering for all dietary needs and cravings.
To further include customers in their mission, there are three jars placed by the entrance of the café, each labelled with the name of a charity or charitable initiative and the details of each. Patrons are given some small bouncy balls when they leave the café and can choose which jar to place the balls into. This then determines the percentage of profits the said charities receives. The charities when I visited were all local charities.
To add another string to their bow, Gratia and Folonomo work with Bright Hospitality, a not-for-profit enterprise focussing on training and opportunities for marginalised people. Both venues hire refugees, with monthly rotations between the restaurant floor and the kitchen.
The restaurant is definitely on my hit list for when we return to Australia in the hopefully not too distant future.
Gratia and Folonomo
372 Bourke St, Surry Hills NSW 2010, Australia
Charity Cafes - The Delicious Directory