Help us Launch The Kindness Cafe!

Kindness Cafe Information Session

Learn about the future plans for the Kindness Cafe.  This is a big idea for the industry.

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A Cafe That Pours Kindness

The Kindness Cafe will uplift our community through food, coffee, and boundless belonging. This inclusive cafe will provide jobs and vocational training for people with autism, ADHD, Down syndrome, and other neurodiversities.

For years we've dreamed of opening a compassionate cafe to empower those so often left behind. Now we're turning that into a reality. With your support, the Kindness Cafe will build skills, cultivate community, and spread dignity through fulfilling work for our neurodiverse staff.

One of our goals is creating vocational paths and training in hospitality that can be exported to other neurodiverse-friendly operators in the community and beyond.

More Than a Cafe – A Culture Shift

The Kindness Cafe represents a culture that cherishes the vibrant gifts of all people. Your donation will help fund specialized training, accommodations, assistive tools, and adaptive technologies to help each employee excel. Our cafe will allow for flexibility and understanding around communication needs. And our public spaces will provide sensory relief for staff and guests alike.

With your support, we’ll create an environment that recognizes obstacles faced by the neurodiverse community while providing pathways to confidence and success.

Join Our Community Uplift

We can’t do this without you! Help us reach our $100,000 goal to make the Kindness Cafe a vibrant reality. Your tax-deductible gift will directly empower the potential of so many in our community. Please donate now!

When you make a recurring donation, we will send you a monthly coupon valued at $10 or 10% of your donation value whichever is higher for you to use when you come to any of our locations!

Campaign Perks

$10 - Thank You Note A handwritten thank you note from one of our neurodiverse workers

$25 - $5 Café Gift Card A $5 gift card to use at the Kindness Café or any Epicurean Garage location

$50 - $10 Café Gift Card A $10 gift card to use at the Kindness Café or any Epicurean Garage location

$100 - Kindness Café Mug Kindness Café mug + $10 gift card for Kindness Café or Epicurean Garage

$250 - Epicurean Garage Gift Bucket Gift bucket w/ bottle opener, 2 glasses, 2 $10 off coupons + Epicurean Garage t-shirt

$500 - Kindness Club Membership 1 year membership in the Kindness Club at the Epicurean Garage (Details below)

$1,000 - Full Perk Package All perk items listed above

$5,000 - Chef’s Dinner for 8 5-course dinner for 8 at Epicurean Garage + Kindness Club membership

$10,000 - Private Chef’s Dinner Family-style private dinner for 14 at Historic Flowing Springs Inn + Kindness Club membership

When you make a recurring donation, we will send you a monthly coupon valued at $10 or 10% of your donation value whichever is higher for you to use when you come to any of our locations!

Announcing the Kindness Club at The Epicurean Garage

The Kindness Club is the little sister to The Epicurean Club at the historic Flowing Springs Inn with the same social mission: to support the creation of vocational paths for young adults and adults with neurodiversities and special needs, for example autism.

Membership to the Kindness Club comes with a $500 annual donation to the Autism Village Foundation 501c3 to support the effort to create the vocational paths for neurodiverse workers.

When the Garage reopens for the launch of Kindness Cafe, on Wednesday nights at the Garage will be open only to members of the Kindness Club.

Kindness Club Members will receive a monthly dining coupon for any Garage location during regular service for $50 per month, a $600 annual value.

Wednesday night service will have a special dining cost and will be for Kindness Club members only.

Seating will be by RSVP and will include a special menu and dinner and drinks pricing and activities.

Each month’s Kindness Club Wednesday Night events will announced monthly in advance and, again, will be just for Club members. 

Examples of Wednesday night Kindness Cafe events include themes such as:

  • Family style dinners designed by the Chefs
  • Movie nights
  • Live performances for music and the arts
  • Cooking and Mixology classes
  • Game nights
  • Book signings
  • and similar special events that interest Kindness Club members and their families

We are embarking on creating the largest local coffee and lunch cafe of its kind, called The Kindness Cafe, at the Garage on weekdays from 9 AM to 3 PM which will provide vocational paths for local folks with neurodiversities in the hospitality industry both in the kitchen and in service.

We hope to use this as a model to develop “playbooks” that can be used by other hospitality operators far and wide to allow them to also be successful in tapping into this population of folks who seek a productive job placement and camaraderie in a workplace. A population that is 78% more likely to be under or un-employed than typical folks.

Why is the Kindness Cafe Important?

There are many reasons but today we’ll focus on just one…

Neurodiverse folks are 78% more likely to be under or unemployed than neurotypical folks.

The hospitality industry lost 1/3 of its workers during the pandemic.

Could you please help us break through the social media algorithms with a share, a comment, and a like so more folks see this post?

Together these two statistics make for a real opportunity for both the sector and the neurodiverse job seekers.

BUT…

To succeed at bringing together these complimentary loose ends: a ready and willing labor pool and an industry desperately in need of staff, there is important work to be done first.

While the hospitality sector is a “go to” for placement of neurodiverse workers through vocational transition programs in school ages and adult vocational support programs, it’s a cliche that often the work is refilling sugar packets or being thrown into the dish pit where busy service and excess stimulation often result in melt-downs.

To create meaningful and successful job placements for many neurodiverse workers, we need to help figure out “how” to create placements that are a win-win for both sides. A saying often heard from parents and folks who work with neurodiverse people is that “the problem with driving a square peg in a round hole is not that the peg does not fit, it’s that one ruins the peg”.

That said, we can not expect hospitality operators, who are already under a great deal of stress from every angle to also be the ones to “figure out” how to create the right fit for this working population. They are restauranteurs, hoteliers, publicans, and the like and not professionals in educational and vocational program adaptations and development.

Likewise, we can not expect neurodiverse workers to be able to work out how to do and be like their neurotypical peers.

The Kindness Cafe is a “think global, act local” approach to solving this problem for both the hospitality industry and neurodiverse folks here and afar. It’s right in our #GarageGivesBack wheelhouse.

If we can succeed in using this daytime Kindness Cafe hosted at The Epicurean Garage and our various related Garage hospitality outlets to develop and codify the methods and mechanisms for success, then we can export that learning to our peer operators locally and afar so that they too can succeed in tapping a population that wants to work in a time when statistically there is not enough labor from Generation Y and Z to serve the retiring and aging Baby Boomer Generation.

In an industry desperate for reliable and affordable labor, a solution to tap into the millions of neurodiverse folks who want to work would be an incredible win-win.

Can we do it? We don’t know… Will you help us try?

We believe that this might be the biggest and most complex food service project for neurodiverse staff based on square footage, staff roles, and variety of offerings.

Figuring out a service model that will both delight customers and also provide a path to vocational success for a broad group of neurodiverse workers requires some careful thought and adaptations.

If you have thoughts, please share in the comments of this Facebook post…

Could you please help us break through the social media algorithms with a share, a comment, and a like so more folks see this post and our crowdfunding to launch Kindness Café here: https://about.autismvillage.com/donate/

In autism circles there’s a saying that the problem with driving a square peg into a round hole is not that the peg doesn’t fit, it’s that one ruins the peg…

While we are not educators and experts, our team has a sense that traditional hospitality service models will not always work for a neurodiverse workforce. We’ve seen how well-meaning placements fail when anxiety in traditional service roles develops into meltdowns and failures.

How can we help our future Kindness Café staff and also other business operators who’d like to tap into this under-employed workforce and help them and their hospitality businesses?

To start, we will be prototyping and testing different approaches to food production and service. Having already employed neurodiverse folks in the kitchen and front of house, we have at least a few ideas…

The theme of most of these ideas is to de-couple time to deliver work products from the point of service.

So, for one example, make food ahead of time at the pace and stability needed for neurodiverse culinary staff vs “on the fly” as is common in traditional full-service restaurants.

Another one is to simplify payment transactions making items even dollar prices and including tax so that making change is easier to understand.

Empowering customers to self-serve in some areas and using a cart for coffee/drink and food service going from table to table which is familiar from high-school-age vocational programs that center around operating a School District “snack cart”.

And so on…

Our goal is to create a daytime coffee and lunch café that works both for the neurodiverse staff and the dining audience.

In order to do this, we are undergoing a complete re-think at the Garage.

This includes the reconfiguration of the physical plant, operating procedures, and menus which will support both the day-time Kindness Café and our regular dinner and weekend brunch services. In many cases, we see parallels with industry trends and developing norms, for example, the ubiquitous rise and diner preference for more self-service components in mid-market eateries around the world.

We believe that we’ll be able to share these learnings with other operators near and far to help them to successfully employ neurodiverse staff. Think global, act local!

Tell us what you think in the comments of this post, we’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas!

Please help us share our crowdfunding as many small donors of even just $1 signal to grantmakers and potential business and community sponsors that our communities think this is an important project!

Meet Greg, he’s on the path to being a chef and loves to make food for folks and says his secret ingredient is love.
Yet he has struggled to keep employment at other restaurants. Why?

Greg attended the culinary vocation program at his high school and then attended the culinary program at a local community college. Then Covid landed and Greg struggled with remote in a vocation that’s very much hands-on and sensory oriented with taste and smell. Even had college not gone remote, he had little interest in the requirements classes and was struggling to maintain a traditional college trajectory. He was, however, acing his culinary classes.

Greg is neurodiverse and so he also has some things that make it difficult for him to perform in traditional hospitality roles. He’s worked in other places where the chefs found him not to “fit” their program. Often he ended up in the dish area (which is a common theme). While Greg really wants to make us all great tasty food, he’ll do dishes if that’s what’s asked. However, Greg is very very serious about his dishwashing and wants everything completely spotless so he’s not fast.

Greg has been let go from every other place he’s tried to work.

Enter our own Chef Jeff March and an introduction to Greg from one of our own leadership team’s kids' Therapeutic Support Staff who also knew Greg.

Jeff quickly identified that Greg is skilled, attentive, and a hard worker he just needed formats where he wasn’t under the pressure of an active kitchen line in service and he certainly had more ability than helping in dish.

Jeff got Greg involved in prep and then creating charcuterie boards for our Epicurean Club Pub Nights at the historic Flowing Springs Inn where the members are championing this work to develop vocational paths and training for those with neurodiversities and who are the driving force behind the Kindness Cafe (www.flowingspringsinn.com). Greg loved it and so did the Club’s members.

Next up, Jeff had Greg working on Club brunches in prep. Enter Chef Misael, whom we call Miso. Miso thought maybe Greg could help at the omelette station at the Club. Greg said he’d give it a try. Turns out with an omelette pan between him and the hungry Club members, he was able to interact and socialize in ways his mom had never seen before. He instantly became a favorite of members for whom he’s now made dozens of tasty omelettes sprinkling his secret ingredient of love lavishly on every plate.

At our most recent Club Pub Night, Greg asked Chef Jeff if he could make deviled eggs. Greg said he really liked to make them and had his own recipe. Jeff encouraged him and Greg found himself with a serious supply and demand challenge throughout the night as his deviled eggs were a smash hit!

Greg is a great example of what can happen if we meet the neurodiverse worker where they are vs trying to get them to conform to “the way it’s always done”.

One of our goals with the Kindness Cafe is to work out how to map this out and to develop resources for other operators so that they can be successful with the neurodiverse population.

Maybe Greg would not have had to go through so many false starts if those other places had been able to access resources to help them work out a way that Greg could contribute to their businesses and programs. We sure believe it could be so…

Our goal is not just to create a neurodiverse-run cafe but to build a place where we can export learning and methods to other hospitality venues so that they too can tap into this population and willing and able staffers.

Tell us what you think in the comments of this FB post, we’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas!

Please help us share our crowdfunding as many small donors of even just $1 signal to grantmakers and potential business and community sponsors that our communities think this is an important project!

One trick, we believe, to making the Kindness Cafe work is to de-couple the food production from the time of order. It sure works at Starbucks, Panera, Wawa, and many other places. We know their trick and want to also use it!

So why is this oven so important?

The fast-serve places use a unique oven technology and unit called a TurboChef. These ovens combine the aspects of traditional heat elements, microwave, and infrared. They are specifically programmed for each food item served. You've likely seen them used in many places. They are fast and efficient and can produce a really great hot product. Products are made specifically for them and typically shipped to the point of sale frozen. We want to use one a bit differently in the Kindness Cafe.

We believe that the Garage Chef team can design recipes and programming for the TurboChef oven which would allow the neurodivergent chefs to prepare food items in advance of serving and at their own pace. They would be fresher and better than purchasing frozen products for the TurboChef and would give the neurodivergent chefs the ability to prep these items at their own speed vs "on the fly" at the time of order and service, which is a critical adaptation to help them be successful in their chosen vocation. Typically we've found that neurodivergent chefs are very meticulous and methodical at making items but they need to be able to work at their own speed.

In addition to the chefs, the TurboChef is a nearly foolproof unit for service staff in the front to operate and also gives us another "position" on the team so we can have more roles for more folks. With very little training and a wide margin for error from this technology, almost any staffer can be successful and the point of service for a hot sandwich or other product. The quick-serve places use them for just this reason.

The trick is that these ovens are crazy expensive. The one pictured is $15,000.00. In order to help us procure one, one of the Autism Village supporters is offering to add $100 towards the purchase of one for each take-out and delivery order we take (which helps keep some of our team working during this renovation period for the Kindness Cafe) or for any size donation to the crowdfunding (which is critical to show broad community support for the project).

If you can, we'd sure appreciate the help from our community with either an order this week for take-out/delivery or a donation of even $1 to the crowdfunding...

We’d like to introduce you to Corey and tell you a bit of his story...

Corey came to us through the Downingtown School District special education vocational transition program. Corey loves to work with food. He’s a quiet guy and not wildly gregarious but he always has a hello and a smile.

Chef Jeff took Corey under his wing and very quickly worked out what Corey liked to do. Corey loves to prepare and plate food and he’s very methodical and has a lovely eye for color and style. Chef Jeff quickly had him preparing and plating charcuterie boards and other food items for the Epicurean Club ( https://flowingspringsinn.com/ ) as well as other prep work in the kitchen for the Epicurean Garage.

As long as Corey can work at his pace, he will deliver amazingly carefully prepared food and beautiful platings. See? That’s the trick… “as long as he can work at his own pace”…

In the autism circles, we often say: the problem with banging a square peg into a round hole is not that it does not fit, it's that one ruins the peg.

So here we have a talented and passionate rising chef who’s struggled to find a place where he can contribute because of the industry’s focus on “the need for speed”. Diners want food fast and operators want to keep labor costs low. It’s a combination that creates an impossible dynamic for folks like Corey.

However, it’s easily fixed with some thought and finding the right shape hole for the peg...

At the Kindness Cafe, we will make our food ahead of time and then serve it at the point of sale. Much like grab-and-go cases, one finds in many grocery or convenience stores but with an upscale approach to the food. So diners will get the quality of food one would expect from a mid-market family restaurant prepared with the approach of grab-and-go at the point of sale.

But what about hot food items? This is where technologies like the Turbochef can help us. Junior chefs like Corey can prepare hot food items that then can easily be finished off in the Turbochef and even by other neurodivergent workers at the point of sale/service. Win-win.

When Corey started with us it was just through the District transition program for a couple hours a few days a week. Once he found a welcoming place where he could contribute successfully to the Garage and the Epicurean Club and with his passion for food preparation, he decided he’d like to do more. One day an application showed up in our in-box. It was from Corey. He had followed the “front door” process to apply for a job. Of course, there was not a question and now he comes both with the District job coach and on his own to work with Chef’s Jeff and Misael.

Like Greg, it’s so clear to see the joy in Corey as he comes and goes for shifts. And look at the photo, Greg taught Corey how to do the deviled eggs. You see, for the neurodivergent population what we’re doing with the Kindness Cafe and developing playbooks for other hospitality operators goes beyond a job, it’s also a social set and an extended family.

Please consider helping us as we tackle the journey of launching the Kindness Cafe at the Epicurean Garage with a share, comment, and like or participating in the campaign through even a $1 donation to the crowdfunding or a take-out/delivery order to the Garage while we renovate to prepare for the launch of the cafe:

We’d like to introduce you to Kirby and tell you a bit about the journey to the launch of the Kindness Cafe...

Kirby was diagnosed with autism at just under two years old and now is about to “age out” of high school at Downingtown West High School special education vocational transition program.

Autism parents call this adult-age transition “the cliff” because, at the end of the kid’s 21st year, all existing support stops, and new support must be put in place. The adult-age support is nearly impossible to organize, coordinate, and even get at all. Adult support comes through a State-issued waiver based on need and the process is arduous, complex, and parents are often denied and must try multiple times to get this Waiver if at all. At the same time, parents are also attempting to understand and traverse paths at the Federal level to get Social Security Disability Support and other challenging processes for supplementary support.

It is at this moment that parents often ask themselves: “What happens when I die? Who will help my now adult special needs child? What will happen to them?”

If one gets the State waiver then the journey begins to find activities, preferably vocational, living arrangements, and other needed supports to replace the school days. Without the school bus, transportation is suddenly an issue as to how will they get to and from programs and work…

As parents identify potential programs for work and other activities, then a big dose of reality sets in as most placements are on a 2+ year wait list. This is what makes what we are doing with Kindness Café so important. We will never be able to have enough jobs in the Café for everyone but if we can help the entire Hospitality sector to employ more neurodivergent workers then maybe we can make a dent in the waiting time…

But we digress… Kirby’s journey is what we were sharing...

On the left of the graphic is the Downingtown School District’s “snack cart” and this has been an activity that Kirby and all his classmates LOVE. With teachers and Chester County Intermediate Unit (CCIU) support, a carefully designed cart that was easy to handle for kids was developed. They take the cart room to room and office to office and it’s maybe their first introduction to a vocation. A simple transaction for a coffee or drink and a snack priced at even numbers to make understanding change simpler goes along with a social interaction with each “customer” at the cart.

Kirby’s dad, who loves antique and classic cars, was looking for a way to extend this into a home-based activity to reinforce Kirby’s learning and preparation for vocations. A 1936 antique ice cream truck passed online and he had an idea… He and Kirby could sell ice cream novelties, like creamsicles, sandwiches, ice cream cups, etc, from a cool antique truck to help Kirby prepare for a simple retail vocation of some kind. They got the truck and then focused on going to fundraisers and other places where Kirby’s ice cream would help him to continue to learn a vocation and help the general public to know a bit more about neurodivergent folks who are now becoming a significant portion of our population (https://www.thetreetop.com/statistics/autism-prevalence). That’s Kirby in his truck in the middle of the graphic.

This was a really successful idea and so the next question was: could it be bigger and help more folks? With the Garage thinking of closing lunches due to a significant fall-off in daytime traffic due to the post-pandemic hybrid work environment and other new social norms, an idea was hatched with the School District and CCIU… What about using the daytimes at the Garage to develop an all-neurodivergent staffed daytime coffee and lunch spot hosted by the Garage? Kirby’s class and teachers worked on a name and the Kindness Café idea was born!

And so here we are, on the precipice of doing something exciting and big with the Garage, Autism Village Foundation, Downingtown School District, the CCIU, and many others helping.

What an amazing community we all live in. From our coming together in kindness during the pandemic times to launching this café, our local communities must be some of the best in the Country…

Please consider helping us as we tackle the journey of launching the Kindness Cafe at the Epicurean Garage with a share, comment, and like or participating in the campaign through even a $1 donation to the crowdfunding or a take-out / delivery order to the Garage while we renovate to prepare for the launch of the cafe:

Kindness Club

Today, we are announcing the Kindness Club at The Epicurean Garage!
Information and join up here: https://about.autismvillage.com/kindness-cafe-interest/

The Kindness Club is the cool and fun little sister club to the Epicurean Club at the historic Flowing Springs Inn and shares the mission to create vocational paths and opportunities for neurodivergent workers. The creation and support of the Kindness Cafe at the Epicurean Garage is the flagship effort of these two club's missions.

You asked and we created!

The Kindness Club is a lower-cost dining and social club that will be hosted at the Garage with a monthly private dinner and activities night and will share the mission to create vocational paths for neurodivergent folks in hospitality.

The entry to the Kindness Club comes with a $500 donation to the Autism Village Foundation 501(c)(3) non-profit.

But wait!

You get $600 in value back when you join!

In addition to the monthly private dinners and activities organized by the non-profit, the Epicurean Garage is donating a $50 per month dining credit for all locations to every Kindness Club member - a $600 value.

Monthly Kindness Club dinners will be held at the Garage on the First Wednesday night of each month and will feature varied and interesting culinary and beverage menus as well as special activities from cooking, food, wine, and cocktail-themed educational evenings to fun activities to create fellowship among members

For example: game nights, movie nights, live music and theatrical performances, book signings, and more. We will be directed by the members with ideas for the monthly dinner and activity programs and these will be announced quarterly in advance and be by RSVP and for members only at the Garage.

In addition to the monthly Kindness Club dinners, we will organize special events and pop-ups just for members both at the Garage and at other locations or where we might be on-site for festivals and public events, for example at the Ludwigs Horseshoe Grounds.

*Get $600 in dining coupons when you join the Kindness Club today!
See complete details by getting on the interest list here: https://about.autismvillage.com/kindness-cafe-interest/

Other ways to help...

If the Kindness Club isn’t for you but you’d like to help us show broad community support to launch the Kindness Cafe, even a $1 donation to the crowdfunding helps us to recruit business sponsors and grant-making organizations. Donate here: https://about.autismvillage.com/donate/