Co-Op: Restaurant

There is a logical progression to these projects.  We've got the people, we can get the buyers group going, so we need to set up a kitchen and store.  That kitchen will serve the produce from the farm when it comes ready.  Add some display coolers to the store, we've can handle cold foods, including dairy and meats.  Add ovens we can proceed with baked goods.  Add stoves and we can do just about anything.  Add the deli, we've got specialty items, lunch items, cold cuts, salads, and sandwiches.  Add a steam table to the deli, and we can operate as a supper house.  All of this has been put together one step at a time, and puts the next step within reach:  A full service restaurant.

Jumping up to a restaurant calls for dining room space, furnishings, serviceware, dishes, dishwashing equipment, restrooms, server stations, menus, check accounting and payment systems, more training, suitable parking, perhaps some decor.  It's a big jump if done all at once.  The carrot dangling on the end of the stick is statistics showing half of our food spending is for meals consumed away from home.  If we can redirect that spending to our own company a lot of people are going to improve their situation.  

The investment for this step is not a single piece of equipmnt for a couple grand.  This will take tens of thousands.   If it's a flop, too many good people would be working for a long time only to have little to show for their efforts.  

The next step is dining.  We've already got a supper house, breads, desserts, beverages...   Outdoor picnic tables is one way to go.  This calls for disposable serviceware, which is already in place with the supper house.  It's an expensive step, self-serve.  Appropriate furnishings can be fashioned in the workshop.  A trash can for the disposables and another for compostable food waste will need to be attended daily.  What's interesting is this step can be implemented anytime.  We dont have to wait until every other phase has been developed.  If we can make dinner, employ disposables, we can start this project anytime we have staff and ingredients lined up.

Start with dinners for the co-op members and their guests.  We've got a couple hundred families who already dine out.  We can start to redirect that to our own company sooner rather than later.  In order to better schedule staffing and pay for ingredients, we take reservations, sell the meals ahead of time.  We'd be able to start with just ourselves as guests.  A limited menu keeps the expenses under control while still offering variety.  Lasagna, Roast Turkey, and Pot Roast would be a fine start.  All of these items can serve other aspects of the operation, particularly a deli and lunch.  There is no worry about what to do with leftovers when weather sees cancelled reservations.  

This simple setup offers utility.  With only our people as guests, its a meet and greet event.  Gather for dinner, talk shop, get to know each other.  In the kitchen, its a means of experimenting with new items.  For the staff, we use the set up as a training restaurant.   If it's not practical with the rest of our setup we have not wasted a large investment.  We can change the way we do things to steadily improve the operation.  

If it works outside, it can work inside: it's a cafeteria.  Come in, buy a sub, have a seat.  This offers much appeal for the general public.  Rather than picnic tables, we'll want finer craftsmanship.  I've been to many restaurants with rustic furnishings.  We've got lots of flexibility in producing our own furniture.  We've got the best part of restaurant on place except for the dishes.   Without dishes, some items are not suitable.  You're not going to cut a steak on a foam plate with a plastic knife.  

The cafeteria space makes use of what we already have.  We'll be needing a meeting room.  Make it a big one.  Space should not be an issue.  At the start there is much planning to do and we'll need lots of heads contributing ideas.  Changing the meeting room to a cafeteria means scheduling in between meals.  A cafeteria/meeting room can gives us a rentable space for companies and groups to do their thing and we'll develop the ability to cater those functions.  

While all of this is going on our staff is learning and doing.  Our productivity is improving.  Taking the last step to a full service restaurant would need the dishes and equipment to handle those dishes.  Everything else is in place.  


Cooperative Enterprise, Plan Outline