SOUL KITCHEN FINDS ITS FOOTING

Newly recruited general manager Ryan Timmons outside Soul Kitchen earlier this week. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Three months after opening, Soul Kitchen, the pay-what-you-can-or-work-it-off restaurant on Red Bank’s West Side, isĀ  progresssing toward its goal of feeding the haves and have-nots in equal numbers, new manager Ryan Timmons tells redbankgreen.

About 30 percent of the restaurant’s patrons pay with vouchers earned through volunteer work at Soul Kitchen or a growing roster of other non-profits, Timmons said. The goal is a 50-50 mix among diners, and “the voucher-to-payment ratio is going up,” he said.

Meanwhile, paying customers are being generous when settling up bills via the discreet donation envelopes that servers present to them at the end of their three-course dinners, he said. The suggested donation is $10, but “very few” customers leave just that amount, he said, and instead pay more to help subsidize meals for others.

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EARLY FEEDBACK: SOUL KITCHEN WORKS

jbj-soul-kitchen-101911Soul Kitchen as seen on opening day last month, hosted by Jon Bon Jovi, below. (Click to enlarge)

bon-jovi-101911Lots of glitz was on display last month when the JBJ Soul Kitchen, the new pay-what-you-can-or-volunteer restaurant, opened in Red Bank last month.

It wasn’t just the star power of pop star Jon Bon Jovi, whose foundation bankrolled the operation, but the swarm of New York media and even the superchic look given to the former auto repair shop by Red Bank architect Michael Malone.

It made some people wonder: would this turn out to be a restaurant for the haves only? Would those who need what Soul Kitchen was created to provide come out, too?

A volunteer at the Soul Kitchen, Christina Georgas, tells redbankgreen that they do. A bit reluctantly, on occasion, but they’re coming in.

“The great thing is that we have that long driveway out front, and sometimes we see them hesitating,” says Georgas, who works as a server. “So we go out and tell them, ‘Please, come on in.’ And they do.”

In an article published Monday on Philly.com, the website of the Philadelphia Inquirer, food reporter Dianna Marder also reports that the concept is working.

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