Church Cafe Changes

As you may have read in previous newsletters, the City Council has informed us that we are unable to continue operating the Hub Café in it’s current format. The Hub was originally set up to be a place of hospitality, where people can gather and ministries are supported, and was accordingly consented as a staff cafeteria. Over time we have leant towards being more like a commercial café and therefore to continue as we are, the CCC requires us to meet commercial café regulations.

What the City Council have told us is that because we are selling food and drink we must comply with the new Food Act. It looks like our kitchen and facilities are very close to the standards they require, but our general kitchen and service processes are not at commercial café status.

The City Council have informed us they want to work with us and have been very supportive of what we are trying to do, but have also been clear that we cannot continue to operate as we have been.  So we have to change how we function.

Over the last few weeks we have processed this first with our employed café staff; as we need to do. We set a proposal before each of our staff that we sensed the need to close the café as a commercial operation. After consideration they too agreed we were unable in our present structure to make the shifts needed to meet the new criteria.  Hence we have decided to operate the café through the Grotto period and close, late Christmas Eve (as we normally do). The café will then be closed through January and come February we will operate with simple hospitality available after services in the Hub. This might simply be free instant coffee, tea and biscuits plus extras we can add to that.

Our employed staff will stop working for us at the end of the year. We are doing everything we can to support them and be generous towards, ensuring we go well beyond our legal obligations”.  For me it is very important that we acknowledge the hard work and commitment they have given to the café and the church and thank them.

This week we have had two meetings with the week-day volunteers who have been gaining work experience through helping in the café. Some are vulnerable people and we know changes to their routine are difficult. We have taken time and put supports around them to help with the news. And for now their involvement continues.

Before Christmas we are planning a couple of meetings with key stakeholders from the past, key café team members and ministries that use the café regularly, to talk through ways forward for the short and longer term.

Early next year we are going to ask the whole church to help us form a way forward. And again there will be specific times where we you will be asked to help shape this.

We anticipate that we will continue to have teams helping to bring hospitality after our services. The food and drink may be simplier for a period and we may not be selling it, but we will still be offering a space of hospitality and serving people.

Already ideas are swirling and with prayer, some careful investigation of regulations and how we might best meet them, we will find a way to create a great hospitality space for people in the future.

In the interium we would appreciate your continued commitment to the café, your support through the busy Grotto and Christmas season and your support of staff and volunteer teams for whom this is a big change and something we are all very disappointed about.  Please pray for those directly involved and for innovative dreams and future stakeholders who can help create something new.

 

FAQ’s – Questions you might be wondering about

 

1. Why can’t you keep going as you are with current staff and upgrade to commercial cafe?

After talking with the employed café staff we made the decision that it was better to close the café as it is now and look to a fresh start. The current staff also did not sense they were able to do all that would be required to meet the new regulations and to operate as a ‘commercial café’. They agreed that closing the cafe in its current form is, very sadly, the best option. Better to have clean break and closure for staff and volunteers than to drift into the New Year not knowing future and fully aware that big changes were imminent.

2. Why are you making people redundant just before Christmas?

We have looked at this very closely and sought input from Human Resource specialists who advised us that the start of the New Year is perhaps the best time to seek new employment. We always close down over January, which gives the staff time to plan and consider what next. They will have certainty of finances over this time.

We believe it would be unfair to delay until after the New Year. Making a decision now gives them certainty earlier.  The staff have told us they appreciate the certainty before the holiday period.

3. The café has been around for years, how can you just close it down now?

The Christchurch City Council has told us we can’t keep going as we are. New regulations that will affect many other churches and non-profit organisations like ourselves have come into effect. These regulations mean we need to make significant changes to our processes and way of operating the Hub hospitality area. The current mode of operation and staffing are not equipped to meet these new criteria. So we are stopping the current café operations until we work out a new solution to achieve hospitality in the best way we can. Each year we have a natural close down period over Christmas, which provides the best time to make this decision.

4. It’s a space of hospitality, not a commercial venture, so why are we expecting it to make a profit like a commercial café?

The CCC requires that we run as a commercial venture, which includes charging us commercial rates, consent costs and food safety audit/compliance costs to comply with new Food Act 2014. When they talk about a commercial cafe they are not interested in whether or not we make a profit but rather that we provide safe products and meet commercial kitchen food handling and staffing procedures that the public expect from a commercial cafe. To ensure this is the case they require us to operate within the Food Act legislation.  This doesn’t mean it needs to make a profit, but as with all our ministries we need to ensure it is safe, legal and effective in its operations. We need to change how we are doing it which will require more investment. Or we need to look at providing hospitality in new ways. We want to take some time early next year to assess the options and ways to operate within the new regulations while providing a great hospitality space and ensure good stewardship of finances.

5. Why is this happening?

The key changes are a result of new legislation (Food Act 2014) and the CCC requirement to enforce the new legislation.

6. What will happen to the staff?

We are very grateful to our staff and volunteers and are determined to look after staff, offering support for CVs, counselling, pastoral care, time off for job interviews and being generous in every way we can. We have gone above and beyond our legal obligations to ensure they’re looked after. They’ve served faithfully and we want to honour them.

7. When will a decision be made?

A future decision about how the Hub space can be best utilised for hospitality will be in the new year. We are planning to begin the year with simple food and drinks in the Hub as we provide opportunities for everyone in the church, ministries who use the Hub, Café teams and key leaders of the café in the past to be part of discerning a way forward. To get this underway we are planning a couple of meetings for previous leaders, Sunday café teams and ministries before Christmas.

8. Who is making the decision?

All options about the future shape will need to weighed and prayed through, assessed against the City Council requirements, financial cost factors and the key question – ‘what will provide a great space of hospitality for our people and our communities.’

9. What will happen on Sundays?

Sunday is a priority. Nothing changes for Sundays for the rest of this year. Come February we will be providing food and drinks in the Hub after services. It may be quite simple though with instant coffee, tea and biscuits at no charge. Or we might find imaginative ways to get free scones cooked, shared cakes, fund raising events etc.

10. What will happen with all the ministries that use this space during the week?

Space will still be available for use by ministries and other groups. We will have to work together with each ministry to figure out how each ministry can provide hospitality in this space in the new year.

We appreciate your prayers and thoughts. If you want to contact me about any oft his then please email me at ajamieson@swbc.org.nz