A socially minded couple, concerned about isolation in Western society, have launched a thriving Dunedin restaurant serving nutritious $4 meals.
The bowling club cooked its first meal at Matariki on 24th June 2022, working in a colorful kitchen truck outside the South Dunedin community network.
Rain or shine, people lined up with their own bowls to buy delicious $4 entrees and $3 desserts to take home or eat together in the community room.
They could also donate money. This is usually enough to cover the cost of free meals for those who can’t afford it, and over the past year hundreds of people have benefited from this generosity and thousands of meals have been distributed.
The food truck’s bring-your-bowl concept of affordable, healthy food was so popular that it cooked an average of 300 meals a night on Fridays and Mondays when it was open.
Founders Liam Arthur and Jackie Bannon each worked 60 hours a week just to stay open twice a week.
“It was hard work,” she says.
They had Liam’s parents a shed, and when the two regularly left something behind they had to dash back there or have his parents bring it to them.
Prep and cook space is limited and Jackie remembers making the cake outside the truck.
“We realized early on that we needed a kitchen in a physical location,” she says.
“I needed a team and a space.”
After taking a break in mid-October, the couple rented and renovated a building in the characterful suburb of Caversham.
The Bowling Club reopened on February 24th and is now open Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights. The paid staff has grown from 3 full-timers to his team of 14, most of them part-timers.
Customers can dine-in or take-out at innovative eateries with more space and better amenities.
The number of meals prepared increases to 700-900 meals each night, averaging 750 meals, but sometimes approaching 1000 meals.
People come from all over the city, but especially from Caversham and the neighboring southern suburbs.
Jackie said some regulars buy food for all three days of the week, but “a significant number” visit once a week.
Clients include many families, single or couple seniors, health care workers, and individuals buying co-housing and student apartments late at night.
Liam says life is still busy.
“It takes four hours to serve about 1000 people. That’s a lot of people.”
Jackie explains why she started the bowling club.
One reason was the fear of social isolation that developed in Western societies.
I wanted to create a space that could be used by a variety of people. ”
Liam is Kiwi and Jackie is from the United States. We both traveled internationally and focused on how other cultures ate their meals, especially in developing countries.
“People eat well and eat together,” he says of those countries.
“Food is more nutritious and healthier.”
In contrast, in the United States and New Zealand, the pair observe that many people don’t seem to be eating well, and eating out here is expensive.
They wanted to know if their idea was a viable business model because they knew that their idea was highly dependent on the community supporting it.
“We didn’t expect to get off to a good start so quickly. We had support,” says Jackie.
1 main course
The Bowling Club changes nightly and offers one creative and nutritious main course such as tomato and fennel risotto with homemade falafel and yoghurt sauce.
For those looking to cut back on the spice, there are simple pasta alternatives that used to be mac and cheese, but are now vegetarian bolognese pasta. The two desserts change weekly.
Liam says having one main each night is more efficient and less wasteful.
Their dishes are plant-based because they couldn’t afford to make a profit while cooking meat. The diet is rich in vegetables and legumes, and is healthy and economical.
Jackie talks about how dining should be fun and festive.
“We want people to be nourished with food and feel it tastes great,” she says.
bring your own bowl
Liam explains why he encourages customers to bring their own bowls.
“We didn’t want to spend money on containers, so people can pay or bring their own.
It also encourages interaction, he says, because people’s personalities and lifestyles are often reflected in the bowls. Hear the stories behind the different containers from our staff.
“Everyone has a different container, so you can usually tell who it belongs to.”
Generosity is also at the heart of the Bowling Club, and it applies to both sharing and receiving.
“It’s definitely a give and take. We try to remain generous in the way we do business,” Liam says.
Jackie added that they have invested a lot of themselves into this business. They need to make money, but they don’t want to focus too much on this.
Focus on generosity and you’ll feel much better. And it’s about supporting people. ”
When renovating the Caversham venue, they created a huge list of everything they needed.
People delivered gifts such as cups, plates and tapa cloth, builders helped with a lot of the work, and volunteers painted the grounds.
Dunedin residents donated artwork to bring color and vibrancy to the eateries, and professional artists have painted murals in the bar and exteriors, which are serviced by professional artists.
“There’s a lot of contributions around, and that’s pretty cool,” says Jackie.
This seems to be part of The Bowling Club’s vibe, a community sharing food and life together.
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For more information:
https://dailyencourager.co.nz/eating-well-and-together/ Eat together often – Daily Encourager