Emmaus Lublin: success for our solidarity pizzeria!
This Polish community diversified its activities recently by opening an Italian/Turkish restaurant. This new adventure has been a great success and Zbigniew Drążkowski, the group leader, and Ela Guc, admin manager, have been telling us all about it.
We decided to create a pizzeria in May 2014. At the start it seemed like something a bit different and we ourselves thought it was a little bit crazy! But we started talking about it at board level, with our colleagues and with the companions. We looked at the pros and cons and we calculated the costs, the staff needs, how we could organise it and the likelihood of success, amongst other things. After two months we organised a meeting of the entire community: the companions, the staff members and the boards of our three organisations (the foundation, the association and the cooperative). The debate was followed by an anonymous vote, open to all no matter their position in our group (just under 50 people in total). But despite the concerns outlined during the debate 100% of the votes were in favour of going ahead with the pizzeria!
We thus started to implement the project. We rented a premises, we did all of the technical and technological documentation required of us and we got the green light from the authorities. We did the majority of the construction work ourselves – some of the money came from our own funds and some of it came from the Labour Department – and then we equipped the site. We chose the name Al lago by Ivo (“By the Lake, By Ivo”) as a tribute to the famous chef who has been working as our partner on this project).
A famous Italian chef living in Lublin, Ivo Violante, provided us with 2 weeks of training on how to prepare pizzas, salads and pastas. In parallel another chef, David Reiser, trained the team on Turkish cuisine (kebabs, tortillas, pitas). 13 March 2015 was our big opening day. Fortunately Ivo was there working with us for the first weekend because we wouldn’t have been able to do it without him… Even after just a few weeks the local newspapers were already ranking us as the best pizzeria in Lublin, a town of almost 400,000 people. We still lead the way and we are now trying to widen our menu whilst always keeping an eye on the quality of the products we buy by purchasing from an Italian wholesaler. We continue to try to improve the conditions for our customers. During the pandemic we couldn’t have any customers eating inside the pizzeria, of course, but our income only dropped by a very small amount thanks to takeaway orders. 12 people work in the pizzeria on a rotating basis, half of them are members of the community whilst the rest of the staff are mainly students.
Last year, in May 2020, the premises for our pizzeria was put up for sale so we took this opportunity to buy the entire property – in addition to the restaurant the property came with a living area and a nice garden. We borrowed 110,000 euros for this purchase from a fund for the development of social enterprises (it was almost interest-free) and the remaining amount of 37,000 euros was covered by the pizzeria itself. We now have 7-8 companions living in this property.
Thanks to the pizzeria project we have been able to diversify our income-generating activities as well as being able to teach some of the companions a new trade and to offer more housing space. We have a few concerns with the pizzeria at the moment during this uncertain period but this project provides us with great satisfaction. We have now renamed the pizzeria Al lago by Emmaus!
© Emmaus Lublin