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Crust Craft Bakery

CFY’s Newest Social Enterprise

Choices for Youth’s (CFY) newest social enterprise, Crust Craft Bakery, opened its doors to the public in November 2022. Prior to opening Crust, CFY’s Education, Employment, and Social Enterprise (EESE) team was exploring new opportunities, having successfully opened a construction company (Impact Construction) a retail outlet (Neighbourhood Thrift Store), and a manufacturing business (The Shop). Getting involved in the food industry seemed like a logical next step and aligned with key in-demand skills for youth in our province. 

Crust operates the same as a traditional restaurant or bakery. There is a core team of bakers and chefs that set the menu and handle various administrative tasks, while the business makes money selling pizza, a variety of baked goods, beverages, and more. Like all CFY social enterprises, however, the business is also generating social value by employing young people, helping them develop work and life skills and empowering them to cross the barrier to competitive employment or post-secondary education.

Crust hires cohorts of youth engaged in CFY programming to work with them on contracts, with assessments every three months. Crust’s menu is simple, trainable, and allows the youth to learn basic skills and techniques that will help them achieve competitive employment in the future, such as kitchen etiquette, sanitation, how to work on a line, and customer service.

Mari-Lynn Taylor, Manager of Education, Employment and Social Enterprise

“What was front of mind when opening Crust was the idea of getting into a line of business that wasn’t just dependent on community but also other organizations and businesses by way of social procurement. We opened Crust thinking that there was some social value for people to avail of catering or purchasing through Crust because while it is retail, it is also a service. When you incorporate service and the ‘why,’ it becomes easier to compete."

Like all CFY social enterprises, youth working at Crust have access to wrap-around supports from CFY’s EESE team, including an Employment Support Worker who oversees the cohort and helps the young people navigate the policies and procedures of the business while supporting them in other areas of their life like goal setting, resume building, dealing with nerves and anxieties, and so much more.

Crust as a concept began more than a year before its official opening. CFY was already operating a small production kitchen where youth could learn how to produce a variety of pastries which were then sold at Bannerman Brewery. Seeing the potential for a food-based social enterprise, EESE decided to explore opportunities to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant location. As luck would have it, a rental space was available on Pearson Street that was adjacent to one of CFY’s existing social enterprises, Neighbourhood Thrift Store. Another CFY social enterprise, Impact Construction, was brought in to renovate the space into what is now Crust Craft Bakery. Through the renovation, other youth involved in EESE programming were benefiting from the opening of Crust as they now had the opportunity to learn through the course of the renovation. This whole process serves as a great example of how social enterprises can support one another to create more opportunities for young people to develop skills.

Crust had a soft launch in August 2022 with a limited menu available on a pre-order basis. This soft launch allowed the EESE team to work closely with Crust’s first cohort to ensure they had time to learn and that appropriate support systems were in place so that the youth involved would feel confident and ready to open in November.

Nick King, Food Operations Manager

“To see that layer of what we do, and to be able to teach things that I’ve had the privilege to learn to folks that wouldn’t have the opportunity to learn if we weren’t here really appealed to me.”

Since opening, Crust has grown into a successful business that stands out in a crowded market due to its authenticity, creativity, and inherent social value. Using fresh ingredients and simple processes, Crust’s pizza is among the best in the province. The team at Crust has taken all the learnings from its first six months in business and put them into practice, and customers are excited about the concept and the food quality.

Crust’s first cohort of young people will soon be completing their contracts and some of the participants are already looking ahead at the new opportunities available to them from the skills and knowledge they gained during their time at Crust. Three young people plan to enroll in cooking school next fall and others have successfully moved into competitive employment at other bakeries. Moving forward the team at Crust will be taking on a new cohort of youth as they prepare for their first Summer in business.

Nick King, Food Operations Manager

“It’s really cool to see what the young people are putting into it and what they are getting out of it. To see them coming in with no baking experience, and we have all different kinds of bread on the menu and different pizzas, and then they have those skills whether they want to go work in a restaurant or just bake bread at home. Now they have the confidence to do that.”

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