Starting a Local Karma Kitchen
We're excited to hear of your interest in starting Karma Kitchen in your community. Really, what it takes is a small group who can volunteer every week, a participating restaurant and some skills in community organizing. When we first started in March of 2007, everything came together in just a span of two weeks!
1. Understand the Concept
Before you proceed, its best to have clarity about the key idea. Karma Kitchen is an experiment in peer-to-peer generosity for the restaurant-going population. It is not a soup-kitchen that is funded by an external agency nor is it a fundraiser for a nonprofit organization (although extra proceeds maybe donated to local projects). Instead, Karma Kitchen is like a toll booth where everyone pays toll for the person after them. Our first "toll" was in early 2007; people kept paying for the folks after them; it even spread to DC and Chicago. How long has the chain continued? Over 25,000 meals. And our hope with each gift in the chain is to sensitize people to their inter-connectedness to those who came before and those who will come after them; and we believe that deepening of awareness starts to address the root cause of various social inequities in our world today.
This 5-minute video does a great job in explaining the concept:
2. Form a Local Team
To get going, it helps to identify all the tasks and nuances in running a Karma Kitchen. We've setup this handy document just for that purpose: Guide of Starting a Karma Kitchen
Take a look and get local support of about 5-10 volunteers who are willing to contribute 5-10 hrs/week. Prior to starting, some of this work will entail reaching out to the local community and getting organized; but most importantly, there has to be shared resonance amongst volunteers around Karma Kitchen's Core Values.
If you are not too connected in your local area, hosting one-time, local events -- ranging from a lemonade stand to sandwich drives to share meals with those on the streets -- could help build volunteer support.
3. Find a Partnering Restaurant
The last key step before Karma Kitchen can get started is to find a participating restaurant. The restaurant will provide the physical space and cooked food (of previously agreed-upon menu); and in return, Karma Kitchen will pay them a set fee every week to cover their costs.
If a restaurant owner is open and community-minded, this is a no-brainer for the restaurant ... because Karma Kitchen will bring them lots of free social marketing, it will build their brand equity, and they'll reap the usual rewards of being a civic-minded organization. Where we started in Berkeley, the host restaurant (over a four year period) has seen a dramatic rise in their traffic during other days of the week; however, the most powerful ripple has been the pride that all their staff take in knowing that they are working for a restaurant that supports the community in such beautiful ways.
To help you get started, here's a sample Introductory Letter to a Restaurant.
4. Contact Us
Once you have the above pieces in motion, drop us a note and we'll assign you a "buddy" to help you navigate through the nuances, ensure that you are representing the Karma Kitchen name in way that is consistent with the other locations and share best-practices and documents/graphics to facilitate the logistics of a potential launch.
Karma Kitchen has created countless ripples of beauty in the world, as you can read through many stories posted all over the web. Celebrities talk about it, academics study it, but most importantly, every guest feels it. Ultimately, that's the love we hope to spread in the world, one person at a time. Thank you for your interest in being partners in service!