We had the great pleasure of catching up with Angela McNay from Unity Grill in Ayr, the town’s first social restaurant. They are tackling hunger and food poverty through their social enterprise, operating on a simple but effective concept: those who can afford to, pay the prices on the menu, and those that can’t afford to buy a meal can volunteer their time for a voucher to offset the cost of the meal. They opened their doors in 2018 and have expanded into running a zero waste shop as well. No-one in our society should be hungry and it’s great to hear from people who are offering innovative solutions on the high street to address this. The brunch menu is exceptional and has lots of plant-based options…check them out!
1. Tell us about how it all started.
Unity Grill is a social restaurant and we use 100% of the profits to challenge food poverty. We do that in lots of different ways, whether it’s providing lunches for kids during school holidays that won’t have access to meals. Christmas is also a big project for us. Normally we open on Christmas day for a shared free community meal but due to circumstances this year we are delivering the meals with a nice Christmas gift. On a day-to-day basis people that are struggling will come in and volunteer their time in return for a voucher for a meal.
2. How many people are involved in your organisation?
Currently we have 10 members of staff.
3. Tell us about the people you cook for.
It is varied, especially in this current climate. People are so susceptible to job losses and there is so much insecurity around employment just now. People who would normally find themselves absolutely fine are discovering they are struggling a little bit. It depends on the day- there isn’t one type of person that comes in. We have some folks that are out on the streets that know they don’t have to give their time, as we have customers who pay in advance for either drinks or snacks, coffee or cake, or brunch, so they can just pop in and know that we’re always here. If they’re hungry they can get some nutritious food to eat.
4. What are your hopes for 2022?
To survive 2022 would be nice! All going well we’ll be planning to open another Unity Grill for 2023, so all plans will go into motion throughout 2022.
5. What steps need to be taken to improve people’s health?
Unemployment is a massive factor. We take into account what sort of food is accessible to people. Food plays such a massive role and it’s not given enough of a spotlight it deserves, not just on your physical well-being but on your mental health as well. Also, the insecurity of not knowing where your next meal will come from has such a negative impact on your mental health. It’s not given the attention by policy makers it deserves, and nor is the positive impact that good food can have on people’s well-being. It’s not talked about enough or given enough focus.
6. You can pick one chef to come and work with you, who is it and why?
There is a chef that follows us on Instagram called Fidel Gastro. He’s based in Toronto and he started off doing pop-ups then moved into food trucks. He has a show on Netflix and focuses on brunch which is Unity Grill’s focus too. He’s just so full of enthusiasm and positivity, it’s infectious.