Have you ever wished there was a restaurant that feels like your own dining room, with big tables like Thanksgiving night? A place where you can share a meal with people you don’t know but who could live right across the street from you? A restaurant that doesn’t have a menu, where you don’t even have to split the bill with anyone because there is no bill? Where you give as you can?
The good news is this place exists. It’s called Provision Community Restaurant. The new restaurant has just opened on Lake Street and Harriet Avenue in Minneapolis. Its main goal is to serve the community. But there is a catch: You pay what you can for the meal you are served, which means no one is ever turned away.
“My goal is for people in need to be able to come there and feel as normal as they possibly can,” said Anna Wienke, the founder and executive director of Provision.
Wienke came up this idea based on personal experiences. She has worked and volunteered for nonprofit organizations throughout her career, including volunteering at St. Stephen’s Shelter and the Shakopee women’s prison.
“I think anyone can feel isolated, alone and not connected to their community,” she said.
That changed when she opened Provision.
The support for the project came directly from her community.
She raised money through fundraising and individual contributions — even the food is donated.
Right now, 70% of the food is donated, and the goal is to get 90% of the food donated by local organizations.
Three professional chefs — Kenny Beck, Heather Mady and Manny Winston — work for Provision part time. Dave Smith is Provision’s program director. The rest of the work is done by volunteers.
Wienke said the result is to “create a dinner experience,” especially in a time when families are not always eating together.
The idea to give as you can might seem unusual, but here’s how it works.
Thirty people are served at each meal. There are eight meals a week. Dinner is served at both 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. On Saturday breakfast is served at 10 a.m. and noon.
So let’s say on average a table of six people pays $30 for the visit, which could cover their meal and other people’s meals. That would result in $1,000 of revenue each week, which could help cover the cost of the chefs’ salaries and any additional operating costs.
They are also helped by company sponsorships.
There is no set menu. Each meal is prepared that day and available for all. The chefs base their menu on what they can find in the fridge and pantry from donations.
Wienke said the restaurant is trying to keep costs down, so they will avoid meat-related food when possible. They haven’t yet secured a donor for meat.
Finding a place to open Provision wasn’t easy. Wienke hoped to open in 2018, but it was difficult to find a property that fit her vision. Then she had to work on getting a nonprofit status and the appropriate licenses.
When Wienke sat down with ThreeSixty in September, Provision had not yet had its grand opening. But, the restaurant had hosted meals for donors, held a mini fundraiser and seen a lot of support from the community.
Provision officially opened Oct. 9. According to Wienke, so far at Provision it has been quality over quantity. The restaurant is continuing to increase business each week. The interactions and diversity they were seeking has been happening, she said.
While Provision has had regular volunteers, it is working to get even more people in the door. There’s nothing really like it yet, Wienke said, so people don’t know what to expect.
Wienke’s dream is to expand to four restaurants in 10 years, including locations in Powderhorn, Seward and St. Paul.
In the meantime, though, the Lake Street location will bring together people who might not have met each other but maybe live across the street, or even across Minnesota, as they share a hot meal.