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Dishing up charity – Nonprofit launches business

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The Human Service Alliance has opened a restaurant in Winston-Salem, and all of the profits will support the all-volunteer group’s charitable programs, the High Point Enterprise reports.

The California Fresh Buffet opened in March in a former Red Lobster building that was cleaned and refurbished by alliance volunteers.

The restaurant serves its $7.99 all-you-can-eat buffet to more than 500 people a night.

“We’re not sure when we’ll be able to determine when that monetary profit will come,” Joseph Kilpatrick, board president of the Human Service Alliance, told the Enterprise.

“But we’re already seeing profits of another kind in significant numbers of repeat customers, some of whom waited in line for an hour to dine with us for the sixth, eighth, even 10th time.”

The eventual profit will support a wide range of efforts.

The agency’s main program cares for a maximum of six terminally ill Triad residents. 

Other programs include respite care for families with developmentally or physically disabled children, and special health and wellness programs.

The restaurant was bought in 1988 by the University of Human Goodness, a nonprofit affiliate of the HSA. 

“We put in a knowingly low bid on the site, which was accepted, so we

were able to pay for it in cash and without debt,” Kilpatrick said.

Red Lobster left most of its kitchen equipment behind, eliminating another big start-up expense. 

Right now, the restaurant typically has about 11 or 12 volunteers on its nightly 14-person staff.

The alliance hopes to replace those volunteers with paid staff once the restaurant’s new employees complete the group’s training program, “Becoming a Totally Responsible Person”.

Kilpatrick has no illusions that the restaurant’s charitable purpose will be enough to make it work.

“We do have a mission with this restaurant,” he told the Enterprise. 

“But we’ve got to provide a good meal at a reasonable price to make this work, to keep people coming back.  If we don’t provide that on a daily basis, all the good vibes in the world aren’t going to help us survive a very competitive restaurant marketplace.”

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