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Carleton trains nonprofit foodservice programs to succeed

Carleton trains nonprofit foodservice programs to succeed

FareStart in Seattle is an example of how a nonprofit restaurant training program can redirect at-risk youth, the homeless, recovering addicts and other disadvantaged individuals toward productive careers. FareStart generates $1.5 million in sales and in the past 12 years has trained more than 1,750 people through its catering and cafe operations.

People wanting to start their own foodservice training programs or those struggling to keep their programs afloat have come to FareStart for advice, said David Carleton, a longtime support donor and staff member of FareStart. After advising other nonprofit operators, Carleton has launched Kitchens with Missions, a consulting agency to social enterprise programs.

Carleton’s goal is to create a network of programs across the country that can assist one another, set standards for operations and training, and serve as an employment resource for the restaurant industry.

What challenges do nonprofit foodservice training programs face?

It’s more expensive to operate a training restaurant than a regular restaurant. It’s hard to keep quality consistent, and the training environment can be inconsistent. It’s just harder to do. From an organizational development standpoint, we see programs having a hard time meeting the bottom line. A lot fail in the first 24 months.

How can a program be as successful as FareStart?

They need to come up with a mixed-income strategy. They can’t see a cafe or restaurant as their only resource.

So they should also do catering and fundraising?

Yes, then students can be gradually integrated into production. They can begin with less-intensive production, doing bulk meals and catering, and then move up to the restaurant environment and work on the line.

Then why even operate a restaurant?

The kitchen environment allows us to apply not just technical training but [it also teaches] how to be part of a team, communication skills, dealing with tension and conflict. They practice the life skills that give them the ability to succeed.

The restaurant component is a very important piece of the model. Not only does it give phenomenal training, but it can be a great self-generator of revenue.

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