Kinfolk Cafe – they give a fork

Cafes, FoodLeave a Comment

beetroot rolls stacked up

There’s something beautiful about enjoying a delicious coffee and meal, knowing you’re making a positive difference in the world at the same time.

And as they say on their website, at Kinfolk Café in Melbourne “they give a fork”. Aside from dishing up great food and coffee, Kinfolk donate 100 per cent of their profits to carefully selected charities and promote social inclusion through their volunteer program.

We caught up with CEO and co-founder, Jarrod Briffa, to find out more about café philanthropy and how he’s giving back to the world through food.

“The concept for Kinfolk goes back about nine years now,” explains Briffa.

“There was a group of us trying to work out how to shift the philanthropy model away from people needing to donate money towards something they do every day, like buying a coffee or a meal at a café. At that stage, we were really focussed on the money we could raise to make donations to the charities we support through the café.

“At that point, we didn’t have a great understanding of the importance of the volunteer program. We thought it would help us keep our costs down and as a result we would have more money to distribute. But, what we realised when we opened the doors was that we were getting all these people coming in to volunteer who were actually experiencing some sort of challenging circumstance themselves – struggling to gain employment, recovering from injury or illness or maybe they were new to the country or something like that. So, we spent several years refining the volunteer program to cater for the needs of the people coming through, to the point where it’s now a really core part of our social impact.”

Nowadays, Kinfolk see between 50 and 60 volunteers rotate through the café every week. The inclusive program is designed to welcome volunteers from all walks of life, regardless of their previous experience.

“Sometimes we have hospitality professionals volunteer for a shift, but then we have people on the other end of the scale, who might be transitioning from prison, struggling with a disability or mental illness – anything you can think of that would be a challenge in the employment market, we’ve probably had someone like that come through the program,” says Briffa.

At Kinfolk, the volunteer program is tailored to focus on the needs of the individual to help them establish a positivechef puts finishing touches on a dishemployment pathway or achieve personal goals. In addition to volunteers, there are about eight or nine paid staff members in the café each day. These make up the core roles such as chefs, baristas and the front of house management. Then 10 to 12 volunteers will support them, with one or two people in the kitchen and the rest waiting or helping with catering.

Briffa says that the dishes on the menu are created by the chefs, but sometimes influenced by volunteers who come through.

“Some dishes have been influenced by previous staff; we had an Italian chef and volunteers and Indian volunteers who have influenced some of the risotto and curry dishes. The curries came about because one of the volunteers offered to make them for the customers and they were really popular, so we kept them on and just rotate what the curry is depending on the day of the week. There’s a lot of experimentation that goes on like that actually, and then the customers really dictate whether it stays on the menu or not, because if they’re buying it, it stays on and if they’re not, it gets changed to something else.

“We also try to work with seasonal produce. We have a couple of local farmers we work with for fruit and veg, as well as local Victorian organic meat suppliers.”

At the moment, the best-sellers are the Avo Smash variation (“Melburnians love an Avo Smash so that’s often a best-seller,” chuckles Briffa), and the daily egg special is quite popular. At lunchtime, it’s the risottos, curries and toasties that fly out the door.

If you didn’t know the wait staff were volunteers – you wouldn’t guess it. The service is always friendly and professional, which is the icing on the already-delicious-and-heart-warming cake that is Kinfolk.

673 Bourke St,
Melbourne VIC 3000

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