Co-Op Supper House

The core of the kitchen includes a stove and oven along with all the support systems and storage needed to operate a food production business.  In the store we have display coolers for beverages and desserts.  It's a fair bet that we'll have fresh breads available.  A deli would have hot and cold displays which can be used for entrees and sides.  In short, we've got everything in place that would be needed for a take out restaurant.  Its the same as pizza.  Customers order over the phone or in person, the food is prepared in the back of the house, customers pay at the deli register along with whatever else they want.  A supper house differs from a pizza shop by offering more diverse entrees.  A take out Chinese food restaurant is pretty much the same thing, but with their delicious ethnic foods being served.

It's been a busy day, I dont want to cook and I'd have to go shopping first, I want to eat out.  I can go to a sit down restaurant but I'm a filthy mess.  I can get take out but my only options are subs, Chinese, pizza or fast food, which just doesnt cut it.  I want to feed my family a complete nutritious meal but I don't have time/ingredients/equipment/skill to make dinner.  With a supper house, I can find something I want.  This is home cooking. 

Meatloaf with mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans and a side of corn bread.
Spaghetti with meatballs, tossed salad and garlic bread.
Turkey dinner with all the trimmings, including cranberry sauce.
Lasagna, chop suey, chicken and rice, sausage and peppers, baked ham, beef stroganoff, stuffed peppers, roast beast...the menu is limited only by the kitchen equipment, and if the supper house is doing what it should be, we can get more equipment.

We've already got a couple hundred people who are eating out with some frequency, plus their brothers, mothers, cousins, best friends, coworkers, and neighbors who will be hearing about it.  We've got the equipment in place and a staff eager to work.  Even with limited skills at the beginning, we will be able to produce numerous items fit for a King.  The challenge is getting this project to the starting line.   

The framework of the co-op gives us tremendous flexibility in starting a new project.  With a supper house, we have a chance to practice first.  Communication is a vital component of a practice run.  Get the word out, see who is interested, drum up some business, and determine what items they would like to try.  Set the first practice run for a Saturday night.  Earlier in the week, start taking orders and payments.  Come Friday, we have a count.  Spaghetti and meatballs is a fine first offering, as is meatloaf: start simple.  Since it has been paid for we can proceed to pick up the ingredients and start preparing the goods.  Saturday night, it's ready to serve.

We are starting with a green crew.  Some will have food service experience.  Break down the work into simple jobs.  John takes care of the carrots.  Jack handles mashed potatoes.  Jane sees to the roast.  Jill makes the gravy.  Everyone pitches with the clean up.  We'll be developing the product and service right along with the teamwork needed for a smooth running business.  We'll be making some mistakes, but by using ourselves as the guinea pigs during a soft opening, we can work out the kinks before opening to the general public.

If this project gets going well, expanding and improving operations would need to be examined  Adding a steam table, $2-4k, to the store would put food in front of the general public, invite sales, and speed up service.  A regular menu streamlines operations and adds consistency and return customers.  Putting together catering equipment allows us to serve foods off site.  Warming sacks and the right packaging would make home delivery an avenue to pursue.

It's important to understant that we don't have to make a profit on every single thing we do.  We've got flexibility that other food companies just don't have.  At the same time we don't have to take a loss just to make a point.  We've got people with their own ideas on how to make lasagna.  Yours might be better than mine.  You'd be hard pressed to beat my brother's lasagna.  It's the only thing he can cook and by god he's got it right.  We've got people who would love to help out in the kitchen but have never boiled water.  To give them a label, we've got teachers and students.  The kitchen gives us a place to bring them together for the cost of groceries, which they would be paying for anyway.  As a prepatory step to launching the supper house, folks can pitch in for dinner, put it together and gain the added advantage of hospitality and interpersonal relationships that will move the enterprise into the realm of a community of its own.


Cooperative Enterprise, Plan Outline