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Hegyvidéki Ízlelő: restaurant with a cause

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“The thing about us is, well, we don’t give up easily on anyone,” says Noémi Ambrus Kiry, Chief Operating Officer of Hegyvidéki Ízlelő, a restaurant in Budapest’s 12th district. “It can be the 9th knife we buy for someone until they are able to peel potatoes, but we will insist. Something doesn’t work? Ok, so what can we do to help? Like, lowering the workbench for wheelchair users for example. It’s a lot of hard work, perseverance, patience... Even after 8 months, they still might not peel those potatoes perfectly…”

Hegyvidéki Ízlelő is a restaurant with a cause; a social enterprise, employing 23 people, 18 of which have mental or physical disabilities like autism, hearing or mobility issues. Noémi explains that their philosophy is to focus primarily on the restaurant and to treat their staff with respect: “We don’t use our staff as the selling point, but the quality of the food, and that’s reflected in the pricing. We’ve had guests who don’t realise what the restaurant is about – for us, this is a very good sign. Too many people with disabilities work in segregated workplaces, doing assembly line, repetitive work for minimum wage. We want to break with this philosophy and show that disabled people are able and capable. They can serve others rather than always requiring assistance. This boosts their morale, pride, and sense of inclusion in society. They are more visible, and have ownership, and I’m really proud of that. It can be stressful at times of course, but very fulfilling.” Recruiting is obviously challenging, as the company needs people who are not only technically skilled, but also good at coaching. “If you don’t have the patience and the persistence, then this is not for you,” says Noémi.

Hegyvidéki Ízlelő is the second restaurant of the Ízlelő brand, opened in 2019 (12 years after the first one in Szekszárd, in southern Hungary) with the help of an EU-guaranteed loan from Erste Bank, backed by the EIF under the EU’s Investment Plan for Europe. “We opened in the capital, in a fairly wealthy district, so this is quite different from Szekszárd,” explains Noémi, “It’s very much a start-up, even if we have 12 years’ worth of experience. The loan helped us re-do the premises, as it was an office before, and purchase the necessary equipment – set it all up from scratch basically.”

The COVID-19 crisis has hit the business hard and its employees even harder: “The sense of inclusion that comes with their work is very important,” says Noémi, “so being stuck at home is very hard on them. But we’re adapting, like everyone. We set up a website very quickly and we’re offering delivery and pick-up services. It was always part of the plan, but everything got accelerated by the virus.”

Company: Hegyvidéki Ízlelő (Hungary)

Type of business: social enterprise, food & beverage

EIF financing: EaSI Guarantee Financial Instrument

Financial intermediary: Erste Bank

For further information about EIF intermediaries in Hungary, please refer to: https://www.eif.org/what_we_do/where/hu/index.htm

 

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