Restaurant owners ‘blown away’ by support

Community generosity has brought the owners of a Dunedin restaurant "almost to tears" after a flood of donations to help fund subsidised meals.

The Bowling Club, which began its life as a food truck before moving into a restaurant in Caversham last year, is a community-based eatery that provides affordable and accessible vegetarian food.

They typically charge $4 per meal, but end up giving away many for free.

Last week, the restaurant started a frozen meal delivery service, which increased the number of free meals being produced.

Co-owner Jackie Bannon said they asked people on social media to give $4 a week — the cost of one meal — to help cover the cost of the service, and were "truly blown away" by the response so far.

As of yesterday, they had received about 250 donations — a total of $11,300 — which included a single donation of $2000.

"We’ve received an astounding amount of support from people and it feels really humbling, almost to the point where it brings me almost to tears sometimes with just how supported we are."

Ms Bannon said coming to Caversham to dine at their restaurant was a "big ask" for people who did not live in the area or had no means of transport, and they had received a lot of messages from people inquiring about deliveries.

They had asked their in-store customers to volunteer to drop off meals to others who lived in their area.

The Bowling Club co-owners (centre) Liam Arthur and Jackie Bannon with fellow staff members (back...
The Bowling Club co-owners (centre) Liam Arthur and Jackie Bannon with fellow staff members (back, from left) Amye Martin, Maiu Wilson, Leroy Carran, Kimberly Ti and Brittany Sleight. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
About 100 meals over 18 deliveries were made last week, and Ms Bannon said they were expecting to send out more than 200 meals over at least 30 deliveries in the coming week.

While the service was a good intermediary solution, Ms Bannon said it was not a sustainable one as it came with a lot of administration and they could not expect the community to deliver hundreds of meals themselves.

The Bowling Club was "not a normal business" and they had felt stressed about their finances and how to provide their services at the same time, she said.

The restaurant usually charged $4 per meal, but this was a "pretty loose" rule and anyone could pay what they wanted — including nothing at all.

Between 5% and 10% of their in-store meals were free, from a total of about 900 customers on average per night, she said.

The donations took away some of the stress which came with their operating model.

"Now we don’t have to worry about it.

"We can just know that we can provide for people because that’s what our service is about ... that is the biggest relief.

"It feels like such a weight has been taken off our shoulders to know that people are going to help us out and look out for us."