Neil Davey 27 Sep 2018 04:53pm

Socially minded eateries

From Edinburgh to Philadelphia, these restaurants not only serve good food but also give back to the community

Rooster Soup Company
Caption: Rooster Soup Company provides food to some of Philadelphia's most vulnerable residents


Scotland’s Social Bite allows its customers to do good while dining out. Patrons are able to “pay it forward” and buy a homeless person a simple bite to eat. Some 25% of their staff have been homeless, and business profits are also used to build villages and provide a place to live or a starter address. They also do a rather good potato scone and Lorne sausage for breakfast.

Social Bite, Edinburgh, UK


Madrid’s Robin Hood is a pleasant bar/café serving the simple menu you’d expect but, thanks to founders Mensajeros de la Paz (Messengers of Peace) those in need will be fed heartily for free, subsidised by the other customers – hence the name. In addition, those needing shelter, rest, toilets or free wifi can use the restaurant’s facilities.

Café Restaurante Robin Hood, Madrid, Spain


While now doing great things for Philadelphia’s more vulnerable citizens, the inspiration for Rooster Soup Company came from another socially-minded angle: the reduction of waste.

Chef Michael Solomonov, a multiple James Beard Award winner, was famed for his Israeli cuisine at the city’s Zahav restaurant and, particularly, for his fried chicken at his other business Federal Donuts. Aware that the bones from the latter were going to waste, he decided to rectify that and soup was the best way to do it. The plan had been to donate the resulting “bone broths” to local charities, but you know what they say about best laid plans. As it happens, this went less “aglee” and more “brilliantly”, particularly if you’re one of the tens of thousands Rooster has helped.

While the name suggests the sort of kitchen frequented by the homeless and others, Rooster Soup is so much more. As well as providing 100% of profits to their partner organisation, Broad Street Ministry Hospitality Collective, the restaurant serves three course meals to those in need, prepared by a professional chef and served by eager volunteers. It is, sadly, a growth business; last year alone, the Ministry served some 72,000 meals in this way.

It also serves as a hub for the vulnerable – providing legal services, clothing, medical care – and, very helpfully, the Ministry also operates as a mailing address for over 3,000 people, which enables those in need to get ID, benefits, and apply for jobs.

For the other citizens of Philadelphia, all they have to do is enjoy Solomonov’s crowd-pleasing menu, from the matzo ball soup to an excellent patty melt (on housemade rye), Montreal smoked meat sandwich or the classic smoked white fish bagel. There’s a basic wine list, a better cocktail and beer list or, should you be feeling adventurous, a fennel milkshake, which is much better than it sounds.

The healing properties of chicken soup are renowned in certain cultures. Few, however, could have predicted it would be this wide- ranging in its power. Rooster Soup Company is a model that many more cities and restaurant groups should consider.

Rooster Soup Company, Philadelphia, US