Cash-strapped restaurant asks for donations

Written By Scott Joseph On July 27, 2009

Lately we’ve seen an increase in coupons, two-for-ones, discounts and other enticements that restaurants traditionally use to lure customers during down times. But here’s something new in the ongoing fight for restaurants to stay afloat in the economic crisis.

Dandelion Communitea Cafe, the funky little spot in the Mills 50 district dedicated to slow food and fair trade, has put out a plea for donations. In an e-mail blast to supporters, co-owner Julie Norris writes:

“Times are tough & even though you may see a bustling cafe, the reality of cost fluctuations and lack of credit available through traditional sources creates quite a conundrum for us. We realize the only avenue left to explore was turning to our community for the economic stimulus we need.”

As a first measure in what Norris calls a “community supported enterprise,” the restaurant is asking 1,111 people to each donate $11.11 ($12,343.21). That, says Norris, will see Dandelion through the tough summer. And if 111 buy gift cards (at $250), the restaurant can make it through the winter. Just how dire is the situation?

“We’re going to shut down if this doesn’t work,” Norris told me when reached by phone this morning. “I was hesitant because there’s that whole pride factor,” she said, but so far the plea is paying off. She said that in the first 20 minutes of sending the email she has received several donations, some much more than the requested $11.11.

The cafe gives the appearance of being patronized mainly by the bohemian sect, but the customer base runs the gamut. “I have such a diverse clientele,” she said, “we have people on the wealthier spectrum.”

For information about Dandelion Communitea Cafe and the donation program, visit the cafe’s Web site.

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