Cafes pivot to produce in a time of need

When Bourke Street cafe Kinfolk closed its doors in mid March, due to a drastic fall in trade brought on by Victoria’s social distancing requirements, management had to think fast if they were to save their not-for-profit business, and continue to support their employees and suppliers.

The solution? Connect their much-loved local suppliers directly to the community via an online shop, with an option for shoppers to also donate groceries or meals for vulnerable people in the community.

Kinfolk’s Operations Manager Johanna Reilly said: ‘it quickly became obvious that forward facing cafes weren’t going to be viable for the immediate future and that there would be a lot more vulnerable people as a result of COVID-19.’

‘We’ve got amazing suppliers at our fingertips and this new business model meant we could help our community to access good food, support local producers and keep our not-for-profit enterprise viable during the crisis.’

The online grocery store, operating from the Carlton premises of Kinfolk’s sister cafe, Sibling, offers house-made meals and ingredients, kitchen restock kits, bread basics (for those keen to try their hand at baking), coffee, wine and beer, tea, milk, and, for those feeling charitable, community meals and staple donations.

The community meal options come in a range of sizes:

  • $6.50 to provide an at-risk community member staples for a day
  • $10 to provide one home-cooked meal for an at-risk community member
  • $45 to provide an at-risk community member staples for a week
  • $70 to provide seven home-cooked meals for an at-risk community member

‘Food relief is really important right now given the number of people who have lost their jobs yet can’t access JobSeeker or JobKeeper payments,’ said Johanna.

While most of the donation recipients have come from referrals to date, the team is now partnering with InTouch Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence, to deliver food relief to migrant and refugee women and children.

‘The customer feedback has been fantastic,’ Johanna said.

‘While it was hard to close the dining rooms of Kinfolk and Sibling, it’s been incredibly rewarding finding new ways to connect our favourite suppliers to our customers.

‘The expansion into online deliveries has also had a huge social impact – the volume of orders has meant we’ve been able to re-employ many of the casual and contracted staff we let go in March and we’re busy delivering food relief to vulnerable and isolated communities.’

To buy fresh produce or to help those in need, visit Sibling by Kinfolk.

Kinfolk is just one of many City of Melbourne businesses finding innovative ways to stay open during this time. To find out more, visit the What’s On Melbourne blog.