Food for thought as new ‘social’ restaurant set to open its doors
Voucher scheme means people can volunteer in exchange for meals at unique Ayr eaterie, writes Jonathan Rimmer
Work has begun on a new ‘social’ restaurant in Ayr which is aiming to fight food poverty and promote community spirit.
The restaurant, named Unity Grill, is the brainchild of Angela Mcnay, who has pledged 100 per cent of the profits will be invested into fighting food poverty.
Ms Mcnay, who has just finished a social policy degree, has been volunteering at her local food bank for the last three years.
She believes food poverty and social isolation go hand in hand and wants Unity Grill to “to help alleviate hunger” by allowing “those who cannot afford to pay the chance to sit at our table with those who can”.
“I wanted to create a space where that’s not a barrier so customers have the option of volunteering an hour of their time for a voucher, meaning you can come back another time if you don’t have the money,” she said.
“It restores people’s dignity because it’s not about getting something for nothing.”
Ms Mcnay has long been committed to campaigning against deprivation in her area. As a student at the School for Social Entrepreneurs, she even wrote her dissertation on food poverty.
She said: “My inspiration really comes from the experiences I’ve had working at the South Ayrshire food bank and other food organisations. I’ve seen the impact that food poverty has on people every day.
“This is my attempt to do something different. So much of our culture is based around food. You meet your friends for food and coffee, but if you face food poverty you can’t take part in that.
“All of our profits will go back into allowing us to use our voucher scheme. We’ll also allow customers to ‘pay it forward’ so customers can pay for a coffee or a lunch or someone’s dinner – that will also allow us to continue to give vouchers.”
After receiving funding from the Bank of Scotland to put her plan into action, Angela set up a crowd fund to raise money for furniture and kitchen items. The £5,000 target was smashed in under two months, with 174 supporters raising £6,210.
Now she is adding the finishing touches to the restaurant with a little help from the good people of Ayr. Yesterday, volunteers from Give a Day Ayrshire, an initiative where people take a day out to support local projects, painted the exterior of the shop.
She said: “Everything we’ve done has involved the local community. We’ve also been running different courses every week.
“For example, we’re running a course with the Upcycling Pallet Company so people can learn things like how to lay a floor and how to make furniture.
“It’s not just about using volunteers to get things ready; it’s all about teaching and learning things together.
“It helps the community have ownership of the space. It means someone can come in and say ‘I made that’ and take ownership of a part of it.”
Although the project has been supported by the local community, Ms Mcnay said that staff would be hired and paid and the restaurant would be run as a business. She has also appointed an all-female board of directors to help ensure the restaurant opens smoothly at the end of the summer while involving the community every step of the way.
Laura Waters, one of the directors, said: “As well as tackling food poverty it is about bringing communities together.
“The beautiful thing about Unity Grill is that if cannot to pay you are able to volunteer your time. No one wants to use a foodbank and with Unity Grill you can choose what you want to eat and it will be fresh good food.”
0 Volunteers work on the Unity Grill restaurant. Picture by Kerrin Carr