For Federal Donuts, chicken bones equal philanthropy

Federal Donuts owners Steven Cook (left) and Michael Solomonov (right) with general manager Brien Murphy. Their new soup restaurant will support the Broad Street Ministry.
Federal Donuts owners Steven Cook (left) and Michael Solomonov (right) with general manager Brien Murphy. Their new soup restaurant will support the Broad Street Ministry. (ED HILLE / Staff Photographer)
Posted: August 02, 2014

At the end of each week, Federal Donuts - which has a menu exclusively featuring doughnuts, fried chicken, and coffee - disposes of the useless backs and bones of chickens. It amounts to about 1,000 pounds of waste a week.

But in the next few months, Federal Donuts will reduce its waste, using the by-product to found a new restaurant called Rooster Soup Co.

Federal Donuts and Broad Street Ministry collaborated to raise $179,380 on Kickstarter to open a restaurant, with proceeds benefiting BSM.

The campaign, which closed July 26, ran for 45 days and met its goal of $150,000 about a week before the deadline. More than 1,500 people contributed, with donations ranging from $20 to $10,000.

The team decided to use Kickstarter not only to raise funds but also to gauge community interest, Federal Donuts partner Steven Cook said.

"We're pretty experienced in the restaurant business," he said, "but with any new project, no matter what your track record is, you never know whether you're going to be successful until you open the doors. And the question you can't answer until you open the doors is: Are people going to come?"

Federal Donuts is one of several restaurants owned by CookNSolo, which Cook founded with Michael Solomonov. Federal Donuts has five outlets throughout the city, including one at Citizens Bank Park.

The Kickstarter campaign offered various incentives to potential donors, ranging from a half-dozen doughnuts to a signed recommendation to "the afterlife of your choosing" to a skydiving trip with Solomonov.

"To my wife's relief, nobody made that contribution," Solomonov said.

Federal Donuts and Broad Street Ministry first collaborated when Cook joined BSM's hospitality advisory board.

Founding and convening minister Bill Golderer calls Broad Street Ministry a "one-stop shop" for the city's vulnerable, providing a host of services that include hot meals, legal help, and behavioral assistance, to name a few.

In 2012, BSM decided to create the advisory board, recruiting local restaurants and hotels to share their expertise in dealing with the logistical issues that come with serving a meal for up to 500 people, four days a week.

BSM isn't that different from the Ritz-Carlton or Four Seasons, Golderer said.

"We're all in the hospitality industry," he said. "We just deliver our services within a different price point."

When Federal Donuts opened a new production facility, it was able to use whole chickens and suddenly had pounds and pounds of seemingly useless by-product.

Cook and Solomonov had an idea: Use the by-product to make soup that could be donated to Broad Street.

But the idea had its flaws. For starters, Broad Street wouldn't want to serve that much soup. But more important, soup wouldn't align with BSM's persona.

Though there's nothing wrong with soup kitchens, Golderer said, it's an image that BSM is trying to get away from - its services extend beyond soup.

So they came up with a better idea: a restaurant that serves soup and donates its proceeds to BSM.

The money raised on Kickstarter puts a significant dent in the $250,000 that organizers estimate is needed to open the restaurant. Cook said private donors will "fill the gap" to reach the grand total.

There's still a lot of work to be done, such as finding a location and completing a menu, which will feature creations such as "pastramen," a fanciful combination of pastrami and ramen noodles, and chicken noodle pho. Cook said Rooster Soup Co. hopes to open its doors in the next six to 12 months.


CFabris@phillynews.com

215-854-5607

@CaseyFabris

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