“We pride ourselves in being a place where you can be who you are, where you can discover your talents and ultimately bring out the best in yourself,” says Christine de Mes, Director of The Colour Kitchen.
Location: Utrecht, Netherlands
Financial Intermediary: Triodos Bank
SME: The Colour Kitchen
Sector: catering, social enterprise
Number of employees: 160
Job creation: +/- 150
Financing purpose: scaling-up, opening new restaurants; hiring staff
The Colour Kitchen Foundation is a chain of restaurants and in-house catering that employs people from vulnerable groups of society under a multi-faceted training programme with the objective of reinserting them in the labour market. “We have 4 restaurants and 19 in-house catering locations across the Netherlands, all of which employ people that have difficulties in finding or keeping jobs. We train them in the food industry until they are capable of finding a stable income to sustain themselves,” Christine explains. “Whether they are immigrants, ex-prisoners, people from troubled homes or with autism, that doesn’t matter to us,” she adds, “Anyone who needs it can get a chance with us.”
The approach is very educational: “We like to call our employees ‘students’ due to the all-round training programme at our restaurants,” explains Christine, “The exciting thing about having a social business in catering is that our employees work in the kitchen as well as in the dining room, interacting with different groups of people. So, apart from learning the essentials of catering, they also have to go through a personal development.” Ultimately, the goal is to bring out the best in people. “We need to move beyond social diversity, and acknowledge our students’ different talents and encourage them to reach their full potential,” says Christine. This social diversity, presented in different forms and its coordination under one roof, is reflected in the name of the business, The Colour Kitchen. Christine works with 160 professionals and 180 students, 75% of whom graduate from the programme into a stable job in the restaurant and catering industry.
On the back of this strong performance, Christine has sought to expand the outreach of the business: “We’re on solid ground now and we want to professionalise things, hire specialized employees for example for sales and HR, IT systems, build a new production kitchen…” To finance this scale-up effort, The Colour Kitchen received support in the form of an EU-guaranteed loan from Triodos Bank, financed by the European Commission and implemented by the EIF under the Investment Plan for Europe. “We’ll be opening new restaurants, which will almost double the number of students and employees working at The Colour Kitchen in the next couple of years. There’s still lots to do. But if we can improve the way we work, we can achieve more.”