Chicken-Bone Philanthropy: Nonprofit and Restaurant Hatch Innovation

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Rooster Soup

August 2, 2014; Philadelphia Inquirer

Some time in the next year, a new restaurant called Rooster Soup Co. will be opening in Philadelphia, ladling out servings of soups like “pastramen” (pastrami and ramen noodles) and chicken pho. A 45-day Kickstarter campaign that ended July 26 raised $179,380 to help launch Rooster Soup, which represents an innovative partnership between a growing for-profit restaurant business, CookNSolo, and an established nonprofit, Broad Street Ministry (BSM). More than 1,500 people made donations ranging from $20 to $10,000. Much of the enthusiasm for the project stems from the fact that proceeds from the new restaurant will support the work of BSM.

BSM offers what it terms “radical hospitality” to some of Philadelphia’s most vulnerable residents. Staff and volunteers provide four community meals a week for up to 500 people; they offer mail service, personal care, therapeutic arts programs, and counseling services; they even mend favorite articles of clothing for their guests. So when founding and convening minister Bill Golderer decided to form a community advisory board in 2012, he turned to the city’s hospitality sector, recruiting leaders from hotels and restaurants.

“We’re all in the hospitality industry,” Golderer says. “We just deliver our services within a different price point.”

Among the advisors that got involved with BSM was Steve Cook, a partner in Federal Donuts, one of the businesses operated by CookNSolo. Federal Donuts has five outlets in Philadelphia and serves only donuts, coffee and fried chicken; so much fried chicken, in fact, that the operation now generates about a thousand pounds of waste each week consisting of chicken backs and bones—enough to simmer up a formidable amount of chicken stock. Cook and his partner, Michael Solomonov, thought they’d hit on a great idea when it occurred to them that they could use all those chicken bones to make soup and donate it to BSM to help feed the nonprofit’s guests.


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While Golderer appreciated the thought, he knew BSM didn’t want to serve that much soup. More importantly, all that soup would run counter to the BSM “persona,” which is much more than a soup kitchen. In addition to the many services BSM provides directly, the ministry also partners with local social service, health care and mental health nonprofits to offer specialized services. He sees BSM as a “one-stop shop,” which is closely linked to the idea of radical hospitality.

And thus was hatched a new plan and a new interpretation of “soup kitchen”—a for-profit restaurant serving up soup, much of which will have chicken stock as its base, with profits supporting BSM. Rooster Soup Co. is still a work in progress. Cook and Solomonov have not yet confirmed a location and they are still finalizing the menu. Private donors are expected to close the gap between the Kickstarter campaign and the estimated total opening costs of $250,000. They expect it will be 6 to 12 months before Rooster Soup Co. opens for business. When it does, they’ll certainly have something to crow about.—Eileen Cunniffe