Windsor

'Kindness Cafe' aims to change the way Windsor thinks about leftovers

The social enterprise held its second pop-up at St. Clair College Wednesday.

The social enterprise held its second pop-up at St. Clair College Wednesday

Ola Hassan is the owner of the Kindness Cafe. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

When it comes to the main food court at St. Clair College, students have a decent number of options. There's pizza, shawarma, subs, a juice bar, and of course, a Tim Hortons.

On Wednesday, students had one more restaurant to choose from — and this one was completely different than the others.

It was a pop-up called the "Kindness Cafe" — a new business that's aiming to change the way Windsorites think about leftovers.

Heenu Bharti was one of many St. Clair students who ate at the Kindness Cafe pop-up. (Tony Smyth/CBC)

Ola Hassan is the owner of the social enterprise. She's an international student who recently completed a master's degree in medical biotechnology at the University of Windsor.

Growing up in Egypt, Hassan said seeing people throw out food while watching others dig in the garbage for sustenance always bothered her. The genesis of the business, however, occurred when she was hired as a barista at Starbucks in Windsor.

"One of my first night shifts, I found that the supervisor was dumping the food so they can serve fresh items in the morning," she said. "The food was still packaged and still delicious."

A new business in Windsor is trying to turn a profit by selling leftovers. Jonathan Pinto introduced us to Ola Hassan, the woman behind the Kindness Cafe. 7:17

Hassan was told she couldn't take the food herself to give to people in need — it had to be donated to a formal organization.

Thus, the Kindness Cafe was born.

Hassan gets surplus — that is to say, leftover — food from local restaurants and farms and whips it up into meals that can be served again. There's no set price for the meal, a model she calls "pay as you feel."

There are no set prices at the Kindness Cafe. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

Hassan is quick to note that her enterprise is not like a food bank or soup kitchen — it's a for-profit business that she hopes will attract customers from all income groups.

"I want to open my permanent location in a nice place ... nice arrangements and tables, aprons," she said. "All of this will cost money."

Maureen Lucas is Hassan's business mentor at the University of Windsor's EPICentre, which helps students and recent grads start companies. While the Kindness Cafe isn't a traditional enterprise, Lucas says it can be successful.

EPICentre's Maureen Lucas with Ola Hassan. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

"[Ola Hassan] has multiple ideas on how she's going to make it work," Lucas explained. "When she does some of these [pop-ups], people are going to pay. When she does them at places like the college, people might pay less. Somewhere along the line, she's going to have a break-even point."

"And then I think what's going to happen is that corporations and businesses in Windsor are going to want to support the good that she's doing — and that will help push her over the top."

Hassan plans to have more Kindness Cafe pop-ups to further refine her business plan. She hopes to open a permanent restaurant in Windsor within two years.

About the Author

Jonathan Pinto is a reporter/editor at CBC Windsor, primarily assigned to Afternoon Drive, CBC Radio's regional afternoon show for southwestern Ontario. Email jonathan.pinto@cbc.ca.

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