Peterborough EATS is a social enterprise located in downtown Peterborough at the Peterborough Public Library. Peterborough EATS wears many hats as they (a) operate as a social enterprise of the Community Opportunity and Innovation Network (COIN) that provides training to people that face barriers to employment; (b) run a café in the Peterborough Public Library that offers quality foods at affordable prices and is open to all members of the community; and (c) run a catering business that offers a variety of house-made desserts, lunch options and trays at very competitive prices.
Peterborough EATS believes that inclusion, equity and diversity are integral to the growth of a healthy, sustainable economy. By fostering our local food system, they help provide sustainable development for their entire community, boosting economic growth through agriculture, product development/ improvement, and sales. By involving people of all walks of life, they provide community-wide access to knowledge, skills, and access to economic gain, as well as to fresh and nutritious local, seasonal food.
The Community Opportunity Innovation Network Inc. (COIN) was developed in the early 1990s in response to poverty research conducted by the Peterborough Social Planning Council (PSPC) and the Peterborough and District United Way. Out of this research came the call for a community economic development initiative (CED) in the area. Peterborough EATS is a natural step in promoting this healthy society. By fostering the local food system, they help provide sustainable development for their entire community, boosting economic growth through agriculture, product development and improvement, and sales. By involving all the different types of people in the community, they provide community-wide access to knowledge, skills, and economic gain, as well as to fresh, local, seasonal food.
Businesses under COIN Food Services were built out of partnerships with other community groups. Natural Blends Café partnered with the Peterborough Public Library and Peterborough and District Association for Community Living, while World 2 Go Foods began through a partnership with the Trent Valley Literacy Association and Community Living Peterborough. In 2011, World 2 Go Foods and Natural Blends Café became Peterborough EATS (Employment Advancement Training Services).
Due to changes in management and structure over time, Peterborough EATS had to rebrand, redefine itself and bring all of its food services together in order to reflect those changes. The catering and café food production operated out of an off-site church kitchen. Peterborough EATS was given a private repayable grant from a generous partner that enabled Peterborough EATS to build a functioning commercial teaching kitchen on-site.
Development and Outcomes
Over the last 3 years the café has had a lot of changes! Peterborough EATS has continued to improve on the quality of its training programs related to the food and retail services sector. In addition to skills training through developed programming, Peterborough EATS offers work placements, job coaching and employment to people with barriers to employment.
Peterborough EATS’ training instills confidence in its trainees, and it is often this new confidence that makes all the difference in whether people are successful at gaining employment. Peterborough EATS supports participants through many different training programs. The Culinary Arts, Restaurant & Retail Operations Training Program (CARROT) is an intensive 100 hour training course that takes over a six week period with hands-on experience gained in both the café and kitchen environment. Graduates from this program have a high employment success rate.
The last three years have led to an innovative revamping of the 3-branch organization of Peterborough EATS. They have been able to develop a number of new training programs, both individual modules and multiple week programs. Some of these training courses include: Cooking I, Cooking II, Baking I, Baking II, Point of Sale Cash Register Certification, Customer Service Sales and Marketing, Supervisor I and Supervisor II. Although there are suggested time frames for completing these training programs, Peterborough EATS is flexible in meeting the requirements of each individual. Peterborough EATS has worked diligently with community partners and the City of Peterborough to develop and implement new training programs that are relevant to the needs of the residents and the community.
Peterborough EATS currently staffs 8 hourly employees and 2 managers. COIN is the umbrella organization which Peterborough EATS operates under. They have charitable/non-profit status and are a proud United Way member.
Non-profit social enterprises must seek funding in a variety of manners. Writing proposals and completing funding applications is one talent that currently exists at COIN. In order to obtain funding, non-profit organizations have to adapt to changing government priorities and expectations. Recently, Peterborough EATS received a Trillium Grant that was used to renovate the store front café. The renovation included increased counter space, improved seating for customers and a sleek new design! Government funding is not the only funding that Peterborough EATS relies on. Recently a private re-payable grant was given by a generous partner that allowed Peterborough EATS to build a new functioning commercial teaching kitchen on-site.
Peterborough EATS operates through a combination of income from café sales, catering contracts, training programs and grants. Any profit goes back into bettering the services offered to the community. A large number of clients are referred through the Ministry of Community and Social Services, and there is a steady growth in the number of client referrals from community partner organizations and service providers.
Challenges and Successes
The development and implementation of the CARROT program has been a great success for Peterborough EATS, with a success rate of approximately 50% of participants finding and keeping work after course participation. Peterborough EATS is also proud of the success they have had with the Point of Sale cash register training. This is a one-of-a-kind hands-on experience that was made possible by a generous grant from the library board to purchase the necessary equipment and develop the program.
A challenge for Peterborough EATS is offering training to the wider public. With a recent grant, Peterborough EATS was able to offer financial assistance to help people access their training programs, and it is hoped that with community involvement, they will be able to continue to offer this valuable benefit to the public.
Social Enterprises need to run like small businesses with managers ready to meet the diverse needs of their staff and clients as well as possess industry experience, business acumen, and the ability to manage and train people with barriers to employment. Investment in skill development makes a tangible difference in how social enterprises are run and contribute greatly to their stability.
Amalgamating all three departments to brand into one image was crucial to development. They have learned the importance of creating a consistent brand image. They have been able to successfully combine training programs, café and catering into one name opposed to three separate entities.
Peterborough EATS has learned a great deal about clientele including how to best serve them. The importance of keeping products appealing to patrons while keeping prices accessible is an important factor to success and better serving the community.
In the future, Peterborough EATS would love to be able to provide more accessible training to the members of our community. There are plans to increase food services through adopting a second location with a store front available to more members of the community. They hope to garner interest among employers seeking to have their employees trained. The goal is to be the name of retail and customer service training in Peterborough!
Getting the right staff and developing their skills has made all of the difference. Successful social enterprise are a team effort. In the past few years Peterborough EATS has made a name for itself in the community for training services. They will continue to offer top quality foods with customer oriented experience. They have an increased stronghold with the Peterborough Library partnership which will continue to strengthen in the future.