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Where Café Van Gogh stands out, providing training and employment opportunities for adults with learning disabilities also drives up costs.
Compared to typical employees, people with learning disabilities may require longer shifts, and cafes have job coaches to work with participants.
“The point is that we want to give that opportunity to people who wouldn’t have it otherwise. Prioritization has always been very important,” says De Silva.
“We are not in this to make money. His passion is training people with learning disabilities.
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However, this social mission also has business benefits. Staff retention is high and this model offers a solution to the labor shortages that are widespread in the hospitality industry.
The uncertain financial situation has put some of the cafe’s plans for 2023 on hold.
Proposals for the new kitchen, backed by a grant from Big Issue Invest, the social investment arm of The Big Issue, are slowing down as they plan to take in more participants for training.
De Silva said the key to success is to keep busy, especially during the vegetarian season, and mobilize community and customer support.
“It’s about people coming through the door and supporting us,” she said.