2017 Annual Meeting
BOARD ACTIONS AND ACTIVITIES
Preparing for Change
- Recognizing that the initial 3 year Management Agreement was terminating on November 30, 2016, the Board of Directors began an extensive process during the year of evaluating the performance of the Restaurant Manager. This review included the cumulative effect of interactions with the Manager over the entire length of his service. It also included actions by the Manager that the Board believed, based on videotaped evidence, indicated a pattern of sustained violation of the agreement resulting in the monetary loss to the Café of at least $1200 just during the brief observed period of 53 days. As a result of this comprehensive review, the Board of Directors voted to not exercise the optional extensions of the Restaurant Management Agreement with our previous contractor.
- After much deliberation, including consultations with Silver Diner co-founder Chef Ype Von Hengst and Professor Susan Callahan, Chef/Lecturer, Department of Hospitality and Tourism at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Shady Grove Campus, the Board developed a Business Plan that supported transitioning kitchen operations from the contractor arrangement to an internal operation staffed by employees of the Cooperative.
- The Board’s business plan included short and long-range goals, funding sources, as well as financial projections using various scenarios. One of the challenges was the absence of information withheld by the contractor regarding sales figures, profit and loss statements, or past performance data.
- The Board made several decisions regarding the future of the Café in response to our online survey and numerous suggestions over many years from customers and members.
- The plans included the introduction of morning coffee and breakfast service, renovating the front room, a dynamic and seasonal rotating menu, and extended hours.
- The Board devised a variety of funding plans including, after approval of the membership at a special membership meeting, new membership plans, member loans, and, a commercial loan from Shared Capital a Cooperative financial institution that offers loans to other Cooperatives.
- As of November 30, 2016, we had saved $70,000 in our bank accounts. We borrowed $90,000 from members and $25,000 from a lender, Shared Capital Cooperative. These funds were invested in capital equipment, supplies, and payroll to maintain lunch and dinner and to start a new breakfast service and late night meals.
- With working capital in hand, the Board implemented our plans to move forward toward self management of the kitchen operations.
- When our contractor’s Management Agreement was terminated, he removed virtually all of the kitchen appliances and equipment, which he had supplied at the beginning of his tenure.
- During a four-week kitchen closure in November and December 2016, we offered a reduced menu, the Board hired a restaurant/operations manager who set up the new kitchen and devised an introductory menu, as well as hired and trained kitchen and front end staff. This was all done while keeping the Café open for business. Some have described this effort as building an airplane after it takes off and is already in flight.
- Our restaurant/operations manager accomplished this feat, but not without some challenges that were difficult or impossible to overcome.
- The Board subsequently ended its relationship with that kitchen/operations manager and promoted the assistant coordinator to manage the kitchen and hired two other leaders so each kitchen shift was covered.
- The Board, recognizing the difficulty of running a kitchen, also contracted with a professional kitchen consultant to assist and advise the Board.
- We are continuously refining our kitchen and front-of-house operations to reduce expenses, such as labor and cost of goods sold.
- A key issue has been maintaining consistent quality in food and in service.
- Moving forward, our goals are to keep loyal customers, convert occasional customers to loyal customers, and bring new customers to the Café.
- Cooperative members, like all of you, can best support the Café by coming for meals and enjoying the music and other programs and activities.
- We now are open at 7:00 a.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, and 8:00 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. We are currently serving excellent freshly brewed COFFEE, warm bagels, and pastries for breakfast. We have also added Sunday brunch.
- Espresso coffee is still on the horizon. We have to re-configure our electrical capacity.
- We had a very successful Green Man Festival weekend. This is due, in part, to our first Mother’s Day Brunch. We are innovating by providing fast options for patio sales to improve customer convenience. We look forward to a very productive festival and farmer’s market season.
- We are streamlining our kitchen and front room staffs to reduce overhead, and have improved our training and performance.
- We are reviewing menu options and making progress to provide diverse, profitable offerings that will be well-received and will increase revenue.
- We believe we have turned a corner. It has taken a few months but we are reducing costs, improving quality and service, and now we need everyone’s support to get past this point by enjoying the food and atmosphere of the Cafe on a regular basis.
Additional Areas of Operation
- We purchased a new, modern Point-of-Sales system with many helpful capabilities, including automatically distributing summary financial information to the Board and Audit Committee each day. With this system, we greatly improved communication between the kitchen and bar operations.
- The Board recognized the need to manage 3 areas separately: kitchen operations, front-of-house operations, and marketing and outreach. Staff positions are now organized by those areas.
- We are satisfying all professional licensures and insurances.
- We are heavily involved in the Roosevelt Center Merchants Association.
- We expanded advertising in the Greenbelt News Review and the Program Books of the Greenbelt Arts Center (GAC) as well as the winter and fall shows of Goddard’s Music and Drama Club (MAD).
- We expanded our use of social media, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter in our outreach efforts.
- Karen Wallace re-designed our website to improve its look and feel, and it is also much friendlier when viewed on a cellphones.
- We divested from Bank of America and transitioned to the State Employees Credit Union (SECU), a member-owned Cooperative. We remain a member of the Greenbelt Federal Credit Union.
- We continue to seek early historical documentation of Cafe operations and records. The Board appreciates anyone who supplies the Cafe with historical records.
MUSIC AND SPECIAL EVENTS
- Throughout the year the Café continued to present award-winning performers from all over the region, country and the world. You will hear more from our Music Coordinator, Amethyst Dwyer.
- Generally speaking, we consistently fill the house on weekends and many weekday evenings. We continue to enjoy our status as an increasingly popular music venue. We also offer mid-day entertainment on Fridays and Saturdays, and monthly Poetry Open Mic, Pub Quiz, Kids Open Mic, Thursday Open Mic, and a really popular Karaoke night.
- During the last year, the Café hosted numerous projects, music festivals and other special events. These will be included in the report of our Music Coordinator.
- Frank Kayser, our lead sound engineer, continues to provide expert sound support for our musicians as well as other projects. We also have a group of dedicated and talented volunteers to provide sound support to our performers.
- The “Reel and Meal at the New Deal” continues to pack the house each month on the third Monday night, with creative Vegan meals, topical films, guest speakers, and excellent discussions.
- We host several groups of customers, including the Saturday morning “Koffee Klatch”, and the Sunday morning “Deaf Brunch” (both of which encourage everyone to join them) in addition to meetings of community organizations and constituent meetings with local elected officials.
MEMBERS, VOLUNTEERS, STAFF AND BOARD OF DIRECTORS
- Everyone who works in the café is now a paid Café employee or they are a true volunteer. We continue to evaluate new staff members in our quest to provide the best possible service.
- We encourage all members to attend Board meetings. The Board appreciates the interest of all members and the great diversity of opinions and views on the various issues that the Board considers.
- The Board of Directors just completed a comprehensive review of our Personnel Manual that reflects changes that are more responsive to our employees and will encourage greater consistency in policies and practices.
ROOSEVELT CENTER MERCHANTS, OTHER COOPERATIVES, AND OTHER PARTNERSHIPS
- The Cafe is continuing to work cooperatively with the Friends of the Greenbelt Theatre to partner in special programs and other ways we can support each other, including on-screen advertising before the movies.
- One example is the coordination of the Theatre’s showing of Open Captioned movies on early Sunday afternoons immediately after the Cafe’s “Deaf Brunch” when members of the Deaf community and friends gather on Sunday mornings for brunch and conversation, before going to the movie.
- The Café continues its membership with the Greenbelt Cooperative Alliance, including participation in a National Cooperative Month display on the ground floor of the Library.
- The Café is an active member of the Roosevelt Center Merchants Association, and partners with other Roosevelt Center merchants on a variety of activities.
- We are a proud sponsor of the Greenbelt Farmers Market.
- The Café management team has participated in several activities of Cooperative organizations during the last year. We established many important relationships with Cooperatives around the state. We share information, resources, and best practices with these other Cooperatives and organizations.
- The Café is working in partnership with the Zero Waste Circle of the City of Greenbelt Green Team in a pilot composting program. Food scraps are collected every day from the Café for community composting. With the success of this pilot, we hope to convince the City of Greenbelt to develop composting services in the city.
- The Café Board approved a plan to provide space for the Zero Waste Circle and MakerSpace Cooperative’s application for a Prince George’s County Community Impact Grant vermiculture projects on the loading dock at the back of the Café.
- The Cafe purchased and installed new tables and chairs for the front room.
- Renovations continue to make the front room more functional.
- We are keeping our “living room” environment with couch and chairs conversation area.
- In response to a request by the Deaf Community, we purchased a round table to enhance communications among members of the “Deaf brunch”.
- We renovated the food service waste system, including the old leaking grease trap and related piping.
- We repaired exterior doors.
As you can see, the Board’s responsibilities are vast and require hundreds of volunteer hours. The next important step is to hear about the financial state of the cafe, which Bill Jones will provide for us. Then Tom LeaMond will summarize the state of the cafe.