Over the next few months, we’ll be covering the opening of Public Greens, Indianapolis restaurateur Martha Hoover’s second location of her hit healthy café. We’ll follow Hoover as she navigates every part of the opening process of a restaurant, from picking a location to marketing. Today, she discusses why she decided to give Public Greens a social mission and how having a non-profit component to your restaurant works on the back end.
“One of our company’s guiding principles has always been a significant commitment to our community. As the company has gotten more stable and profitable, we’ve been able to make bigger and bigger commitments to the community. At first, we were giving gift certificates to school auctions and sponsoring all these different events. But I soon realized that at the end of every year, we would look backward to see where our money went, and the impact wasn’t as great as I wanted it to be. We were giving out good chunks of money, and we work hard to be able to do that. But there were three issues with our approach. First: we were giving money to organizations that didn’t really have an impact on our customers. Our customers were happy we were giving money, but they didn’t connect with how we were giving money. Number two: I signed all the checks, and I got all the credit, and that was remarkably unfair. The staff was working really hard, and they weren’t connected with where we were giving the money or getting the credit they deserved. Third: I didn’t have any control over where the money was going.
Around the same time, I was becoming acutely aware of the needs in our community regarding lack of food access. We have so many kids in Indianapolis who are hungry to no fault of their own, and I thought we could really make an impact there.
So we created The Patachou Foundation, with the goal of making an immediate impact on feeding the children of the community. We didn’t wait until we had raised a million dollars or had a brick and mortar office — the minute we started, we started feeding children.
I knew when I first opened Public Greens that I wanted that original location to donate all of the profits to the Patachou Foundation. The whole mission of Public Greens is serving affordable, nutritious food, so it seemed obvious and necessary that we needed to be making sure children could have access to that same food, too.
For this new location of Public Greens, we will be donating a percentage of the profits to the Patachou Foundation — we simply can’t afford to donate all the profits, but we can still make an impact. We still want to be able to tell our customers: part of you supporting Public Greens means you are also supporting the community. We have determined the percentage amount to be between five and ten percent, depending on the profits we see and what our accountant recommends at the end of the calendar year.
For any new restaurant looking to have a social mission, it’s important, first and foremost, for the business to be sustainable and profitable. You can’t give away money that you don’t have. My second biggest piece of advice would be to avoid giving away money in a scattershot manner — you can never make any deep impact if you give away money that way. Choose one issue that matters to you and your staff and go deep on it. If your staff is invested in a social issue, they will actively want to contribute to the success of your organization.
Other than that, there’s nothing that should hold anyone back from giving his or her restaurant a social purpose. Our non-profit component has become part of our business model now. And people see great value in it because not only does this issue matter to the community, but it matters to customers, and it matters to staff. I think it’s just good business.”