Nonprofit One World Cafe on Shaky Ground
The One World Cafe in Salt Lake City has fallen on troubling financial times after their nonprofit model has caught up with the hard realities of forging a successful business establishment.
The restaurant was created on the "pay-as-you-can" premise that customers could pay what they thought their meal was worth, or what they could afford. And they chose exactly what foods they received on their plates - food that was crafted from organic and locally grown ingredients wherever possible. There is no menu, and no prices, and cooks are free to create daily dishes of their choice.
“As the restaurant grew, I didn't have the expertise at running a kitchen,” acknowledged Cerreta during a media teleconference call on Friday. “We needed more structure and a more professional kitchen.”
A recent review of the business showed the restaurant was overstaffed and management of employee time was poor. It never even had an employee time clock. The restaurant also had failed to keep concise records of food costs and fixed costs. All told, mismanagement cost the restaurant $8,000 to $10,000 a month, Cerreta said.
“There just wasn't a system in place so that it would work as a professional establishment,” added Steve Lyman, a longtime restaurant manager from Squatters, Red Rock and Bambara, who is volunteering his time to help get One World in order.
After the One World Cafe gained national attention last year when they shifted gears and became a nonprofit organization with a board of directors, founder Denise Cerreta became a sought-after public speaker and traveled the country helping to launch other community kitchens. Bo Dean, the longtime manager who was recently fired, credits Cerreta's continual absence to the restaurant failures, citing that there was little leadership or organization without her there:
“It's hard to implement changes when I was the only one around,” said Dean, who heard that he had been fired from a fellow employee - not Cerreta or the board.
Numerous staff walked out on the job after Dean was fired, especially as employee cheques had been bouncing over the last 3 months as the restaurant bank account ran dry.
One World Cafe has recently hired an executive chef and sous chef to replace Dean, and installed new management procedures. Cerreta insists there is no danger of closure, and that while their financial situation is rocky they will survive the current turmoil.