Millennial trends show us that our dining experiences are about more than just the restaurant ambiance and a good meal. Restaurants that support nonprofits or awareness programs, gain momentum as customers feel their power to support these initiatives in a simple way. Restaurants that give a percentage of proceeds for various fundraising efforts, are now a common practice in the food and beverage industry. Some restaurants commit to practices that are eco friendly. Others promote a special kind of service.
One such restaurant, Café Momentum, in Dallas is serving up more than just amazing dishes.
The restaurant is serving the community with its meals and mission. The mission of Café Momentum goes beyond the menu. The training and transformation of lives for troubled kids, is what Café Momentum is all about. The website states:
“Café Momentum, a Dallas-based restaurant and culinary training facility, transforms young lives by equipping our community’s most at-risk youth with life skills, education and employment opportunities to help them achieve their full potential.”
Chad Houser, Founder, CEO, and Executive Chef of Café Momentum has publicly described his restaurant this way, “taking kids out of jail and teaching them to play with knives and fire.” Houser’s sense of humor along with his passion for transforming youth is evident to anyone who sets foot in the restaurant. The kids are grateful for the opportunity to learn a trade and acquire good social skills along the way. The concept for the program is yielding positive results for the whole community.
Café Momentum is a non-profit restaurant, working in collaboration with the Dallas County Juvenile Justice Department, to provide culinary internships for kids exiting juvenile detention. The internship is for 12 months and interns are paid post-release. Beginning with a 13-week orientation, interns are given case managers who help to address personal needs, stability, and goals. The interns learn how to work all areas of the restaurant. The case management provides additional support through classes including; financial literacy, parenting, and help with exploring education and career options. The program is serving the community in a tremendous way by giving troubled kids a place to belong.
The mission is clear, but shaping these young adults is not always an easy task. Trainees learn about responsibility and commitment because the interns that come through the program have some intense issues to manage. Fortunately, case managers support interns through issues including; anger management, trauma recovery, and abandonment. Upon successful completion of the program, interns are hired to work with one of Cafe Momentum’s community partners. So youth, who were once considered at-risk, are actually serving the community. Kids are given a chance to learn how to work hard and become a contributing member of society. They get a fresh start, which is something you just can’t put a price on.
Café Momentum has learned to thrive in the midst of having interns who may not show up consistently for work. Some kids are still learning how their actions impact others and themselves. The young adults are taught to understand the interconnectedness of their working relationships. After being left to care for themselves at a young age, some kids do not yet comprehend how their choices affect the people around them. Teaching responsibility is a learning process. A learning process that Café Momentum is fully committed to, because both the interns and the community benefit from the support of the non-profit organization.
Café Momentum has gained a reputation, not just for their community service, but also for excellence in culinary arts. The public eagerly supports the community project simply by showing up hungry.
Clearly, Café Momentum is more than just a restaurant. As if it isn’t enough to serve great food for a great cause, but additionally, the restaurant offers culinary classes. By attending these classes or group parties, guests can learn how to craft their own delicious entrees. As a result, guests get to be the chef for a night and even enjoy the food and refreshments along the way.
Entrepreneurs should note, in a big competitive food industry, such as Dallas, it pays to have a unique dining experience. Whether running a non-profit restaurant or not, it makes sense for restaurant owners to get out there and tell their stories. Be a part of the community and show how building relationships builds the community as a whole. Cooking has the power to bring people together. In our current times of divisiveness, members of the community are looking for ways to unite. Food can be a part of how our communities come together.
Area attorney and community service volunteer for Richardson, Marcie Johnson, made this statement about her experience at Café Momentum, “I just went to join my friends at a party to learn how to make Margherita Pizza, but it turned out to be so much more than that.” Johnson continued, “I think the internship program is a powerful service to the kids and to the entire community.” There are a variety of ways to get involved in community service, but people do not always know where to look. Café Momentum’s organization helps to bring attention to many other areas of service.
The future of the food and beverage industry is constantly changing. More restaurants should consider the value of building community relationships that are serving the community with such a lasting impact. Kids that might otherwise, struggle to adapt to a healthy lifestyle, are given the opportunity to make a difference with their lives. The community supports the idea of helping these former juvenile detainees. After all, troubled kids learn to make positive contributions to the community, so it is a win-win for everyone.
People really want to be a part of something meaningful, but they just don’t always know what to do. This is a way that people can feel a part of the restaurant owner’s ministry in a very simple and practical way. People feel better about spending money on their dining experience when they fully understand the impact of their financial contribution. Plus, the food is delicious. So, it is no wonder that this restaurant is thriving amidst the competitive food and beverage industry.
Restaurants that thrive often tell a story to survive. Humanity, despite all its flaws, continues to be drawn to places with a story to tell. The sense of belonging to a common cause, unites us and makes us feel more like a family. Who doesn’t want to feel like family when they sit down to a meal?