Guy Fieri – Flavourtown native, ’90s fashion holdover and bombastic host of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives – may be the last person you would expect to inspire a new social justice initiative in Abbotsford.
But he’s done just that.
Former pastor Kyle Dyck saw an episode of Fieri’s popular Food Network program featuring a cafe where patrons pay what they choose. He saw an opportunity to combine his passion for charitable work with his entrepreneurial spirit, and decided to open his own eatery where patrons pay on a sliding scale.
He hopes to open Abby Eats Cafe in early 2018.
The cafe will be a place where low-income individuals can pay little or no money for food and drinks, or work an hour for a meal, Dyck says.
But he’s quick to point out what the cafe won’t be.
“It’s not a food bank; it’s not a charity per se; it’s not a hand out; it’s not a soup kitchen,” he says. “It’s not just: ‘Here’s the crappiest minestrone soup or the cheapest meal we can give you’ but something that’s actually raised in quality.”
The cafe will serve some of the highest quality food in town, he says. He hopes to source fine ingredients from local farms and markets and hire an experienced head chef.
Dyck plans to launch a crowdfunding campaign April 25, with hopes of raising $75,000 before opening a storefront whose location is yet to be determined.
He estimates the cafe will have to raise $50,000 a year after that on top of its retail revenue to remain sustainable.
The pay-what-you-can model is mostly unheard of in western Canada, with only a few in the east, Dyck says. But there are more than 50 in the U.S., and research from those cafes shows typically 60 per cent of patrons will pay the suggested price for items, while 20 per cent pay above that and 20 per cent pay below the suggested price or nothing at all.
“Who knows how those numbers will turn out here,” he says. “That’s one of the big unknowns … it’s not really proven in this culture.”
Dyck has his sights set on a downtown storefront for the cafe’s location due to the area’s mix of lower-, middle- and upper-class people. The confluence of classes will mean those who can afford to pay more will keep the venture afloat, while the area’s less fortunate will be served as well.
Dyck says Abby Eats Cafe will provide “a phenomenal meal, where you’re greeted with warmth and care and you’re valued and loved.”