Café Eighty-Ate is back and better than ever.
That’s the message the board of directors at the Kennedy Seniors’ Recreation Centre are trying to get out following a change in management earlier this summer.
Service levels at the cafeteria had ebbed in 2017, causing many members to complain to the board and, in some cases, stop coming to the centre all together.
“We had an operator who wasn’t providing what the members required in terms of food, and he wasn’t here a lot. He just wasn’t that enthusiastic about the whole thing,” Kennedy Seniors Society president Rick Stonehouse told the Reporter.
The board parted ways with the previous operator of the café, and for about six months all that was on offer was cold sandwiches, muffins and the like.
The situation got so bad that it came to the attention of Delta council in May, along with other service issues at the centre.
“That was our number one issue when we had our annual general meeting. You should have seen it, I’ve never seen so many people at an annual general meeting,” said society director-at-large Nancy Brown.
“Four hundred people, [and] all they wanted to talk about was the café, that was it,” Stonehouse added.
Things turned around in mid-June when the board brought chefs David Langmuir and Lucy Lara to run things at Café Eighty-Ate.
“The mood around the facility has just [gone up] 100 per cent since David and Lucy started,” Stonehouse said.
“It’s been well received,” Langmuir agreed. “It’s really rewarding for us. It’s a great service that we’re happy to provide. People are just so appreciative of what we’re doing here and we love doing it, so it’s a win-win.”
In June, Langmuir had recently entered semi retirement after running his own cooking business and operating cafeterias in seniors’ centres and care homes, most recently spending five years at Minoru Place Activity Centre in Richmond, where Lara was co-chef.
“She had moved on as well, so [it was] an opportunity for us both to come here,” Langmuir said. “We’ve actually both worked with seniors for many years … so [we’re] very familiar with the diets of seniors and realize that they require and would like more hot meals. So we said we wanted to start hot meals five days a week, which we’ve done, and home-made soups and lots of scratch cooking. Lucy’s a great baker.”
In addition to cooking up hot, home-style meals like roast beef, lasagna, pot pies and soups from scratch (and always fish on Fridays), the duo also make an assortment of sandwiches and homemade snacks.
“A lot of the programs they like to sit down and chat and have a break, and so we’ve provided date squares and Rice Krispies Squares,” Langmuir said.
But the changes don’t stop there. Langmuir and Lara have also brought in several new features that are proving popular with the members.
For starters, the team are preparing take-home meals and other items that patrons can purchase.
“I know some seniors that they’ll come in here for lunch and then they’ll get a take-out for dinner,” Brown said.
“Especially sometimes on Fridays, they come and they buy a bunch of soups and sandwiches for the weekend,” Lara added.
“We’ve done it in the past at other seniors’ centres and it’s very, very successful,” Langmuir said. “Many of our members have a loved one at home that can’t get out as much or are unable to get out at all, so it gives them the opportunity to take food to them.”
Also new is a selection of breakfast items — breakfast bagels and such — that are available as soon as the centre’s doors open in the morning.
“Not a full breakfast, but we have the sandwiches,” Langmuir said.
As well, he and Lara have been doing a few catering gigs for members, and they already have a lot of requests for birthdays, anniversaries and holidays.
Currently the café serves around 15 to 20 meals per day, but Langmuir and Lara hope to see it climb to 50 in the fall as members return from summer vacations, new members join and word gets out about the improvements they have brought in.
“I understand a lot of people have come back to try it and are very happy with it,” Langmuir said. “It was the same thing at Minoru Seniors’ Centre. When I started — Lucy was there before me — it was about 30 meals a day, and by the time we left it was like 80 average a day.
“So apparently that potential is here; it’s been like that in the past, and if the service is here they’ll come.”
The café is open to both members and the public, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
On Thursday, Café Eighty-Ate will be offering free coffee and freshly-made baked goods from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. as part of the centre’s Passport to Kennedy event, a week of free programs aimed at bringing new members to the Kennedy.