The first social enterprise opens in Haining—a charitable vegetarian restaurant

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China’s Philanthropy Times recently reported on a vegetarian restaurant that has been officially recognized as the first social enterprise in Haining, a Yangze Delta city in Zhejiang Province. The restaurant, called the “Nanguanxiang Vegetarian Restaurant” (南关厢素食馆) was opened in 2014. In spite of its limited size, it has been doing a roaring trade. The restaurant’s profits all go to a special account set up within the Charity Federation (慈善总会) by a Volunteer Committee. Except for the expenses of the restaurant, the rest all goes to charitable activities in the fields of poverty relief and medical aid.

The enterprise was started by Chai Guorong, the executive vice-president of the Haining Volunteer Committee and manager of the Leather Research Association (皮革研究协会), who found several empty rooms close to the house he rented in Nanguanxiang Old Street. After some thought he decided to open a charitable vegetarian restaurant through a fund that would be raised by shareholders, some of whom would be chosen to be members of a council in charge of the daily operations and management of the restaurant.

In order to increase public trust, the restaurant opened its accounts to the public. The restaurant’s total income to the present day has reached over 1 million Yuan, 0.8 million of which has been used for charitable activities. To ensure the transparency of the restaurant’s finances, the council of shareholders also set up a financial management group. They also invited a third party financial management company to report on the operational situation to the shareholders daily and release a monthly report to the public.

At the end of November 2014 the Nanguanxiang Vegatarian Restaurant was registered as the first social enterprise in Haining, with the support of the Ministry of Civil Affairs. The model by which this charitable business was run attracted a lot of attention, and people from a variety of non-profits came to visit and learn from the restaurant. Chai Guorong, the business’s founder, told the Philanthropy Times that he hopes that his restaurant can push more people to participate in public welfare, to encourage charitable creativity and to inspire more charitable organizations to find a good way to conduct fundraising.