Newcastle cafe serves up hospitality experience for people with a disability

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1233 ABC Newcastle


Robert Virtue


November 15, 2016 11:27:58

Luke Ward works in the cafe’s kitchen. (1233 ABC Newcastle: Robert Virtue)
(1233 ABC Newcastle: Robert Virtue)
Ms Waters said customers were understanding of the cafe’s goals and the opportunities it was providing.”We are often experimenting with foods, allowing the guys to cook different stuff,” she said.”We could throw out 40 coffees a day, just with them learning.”We’re not here to make money as a business. (1233 ABC Newcastle: Robert Virtue)
But Ms Waters said keeping the cafe viable did have its challenges.”[We have] just the same challenges that every cafe has in gaining customers, keeping customers, maintaining that reputation,” she said.”Having customers come with a little bit of patience and realise that we are a learning enterprise and our guys might be a little bit slower, the food might take a little bit longer, there might be a spill down the side of the coffee because someone’s got a few balance issues.”Workers keen to develop their skillsLuke Ward’s role at the cafe is mainly in the kitchen as a dish washer.”I love work … it’s really good. “We would like people to come and experience it themselves and realise that the disabilities these guys have isn’t any sort of hindrance. I go home happy because I have work, and I go home and see my mum,” he said.Mark Jones’s role is to interact with the cafe’s patrons.”I work with customers, I work hard. We’re here as a learning enterprise to give the guys opportunities to be able to venture out.”Ms Waters said once customers were in the door, they “soon figured it out”, but the cafe did not advertise that it was a disability service. It’s my job — serving coffees, making coffees … I’m a nice man,” he said. Photo:
Chris Damceski hopes to become a full-time chef. (1233 ABC Newcastle: Robert Virtue)
Chris Damceski has recently become Chars Cafe’s first apprentice.”Ever since I was six I just wanted to [work in hospitality] because I always baked with my grandma,” he said.”[It taught me] a lot of different things with our nationality, Macedonian.”It’s a good first job if you’re looking at working in the food industry, or [to] help you get your speed up.”I hope to eventually be a full-time chef … I’ll just see how far I go.” They are able to do everyday jobs and be part of the community,” she said. (1233 ABC Newcastle: Robert Virtue)
Expansion into other parts of the HunterMs Waters said the National Disability Insurance Scheme had helped enable growth into other areas of the Hunter, including Mayfield and Lake Macquarie.”It’s enabled us to open [the] Toronto [cafe] and we do also run two school canteens,” she said.”It gave us the opportunity to open up a second canteen within a primary school. A non-profit cafe in Newcastle is expanding its services after high demand from people with a disability wanting to learn hospitality skills.Chars Cafe at Broadmeadow in New South Wales is run by disability service provider Response Services.The operation sees people with a disability volunteer in a variety of roles in the café.”It’s developing some hospitality skills for the guys to go out and get other jobs,” Alisha Waters, Response Services co-ordinator and quality support officer, said.”We do have some service users who are here just for the experience with no employment goals, and they learn customer service skills, food skills, barista skills and feel like they’re part of the community and making a contribution.”There’s some of the guys that have said that they don’t want to learn [how to make] coffee, so we just do what they want to do.”A couple of the guys just like serving the customers, so they will just stay on the till and clean the tables.”But we try to give them a range of experiences — even cleaning the toilets, that’s part of the work and we do have to do jobs that we don’t like sometimes.”

Response Services has opened cafes at Mayfield and Toronto. Now we’re starting to look towards more catering and more ventures, because more service users have been able to access the facilities.”

Alisha Waters co-ordinates a cafe providing opportunities for people with a disability. Photo:
Mark Jones’s role is to interact with customers and make coffee.
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Broadmeadow 2292