According to Café Bhakti’s website, its vegan sandwiches, wraps, soups, and salads are “prepared in the mode of goodness to renew your spirits. The ensemble of chefs in our serene kitchen are devoted yogis of the bhakti tradition.” Indeed chef Divya Alter has spent two decades cooking in Indian and European ashrams and temples. But it seems that’s not enough to make East Villagers stop into the months-old Hare Krishna hangout for a “Call-it-a-flower” cauliflower wrap. This letter just went out to the Bhakti Center’s devotees.
Dear Devotee Community,
I am writing you to bring your attention to the developments of the Bhakti Café and how you can participate in its success.
As you know, the Cafe is the first stage of the Bhakti Center, the cultural center we are creating here as a way of introducing the City to Krsna Consciousness in a new and powerful way. Later stages will include a full-fledged yoga studio and seminar spaces.
At the present moment we get an average of 30-40 people a day. To bring the Bhakti Cafe into a safe position we need 80-100 people to come every night and we have been told that the best ways to achieve that is through word-of-mouth and through friends and family. So here is my request: please make eating at the Bhakti Café and bringing as many friends, family members, co-workers etc to the café as possible an important part of your devotional service.
I know that devotees in our community have many different opinions about the cafe. It’s natural because it is such an important project for our community–we all feel deeply invested in it. The funny thing, however is that there are as many opinions about the cafe as there are devotees in the community. In fact, just on Saturday I spoke with two different devotees who gave me two completely opposite opinions about what should be happening down there! So I am humbly requesting that as a community we set aside whatever personal ideas we may have for what kind of cafe we want, and commit ourselves to wholeheartedly supporting it by coming as often as we can and bringing as many people as possible with us.
The fact is that running a cafe in New York City is a notoriously difficult endeavor. Radhavallabha Prabhu has told me that he speaks to people in the industry all the time who say that because of the present economy things in the business are tougher than ever. A prominent Restaurateur told him a couple of weeks ago that if he had opened the cafe 5 years ago it would have been twice as busy as it is now. He said that 80-90% of restaurants that open in NYC right now close within the first year. In fact, in this past month we witnessed two close just across the street from us – the Rama Cafe and Pinisi, the little cupcake shop. On top of that is the truth that the Bhakti Cafe has been started with 30-40% of the budget most cafe’s spend. With the kind of odds we are facing, I think you can see why we need the steady constant patronage of our entire community to ensure success.
Also, by regularly frequenting the Bhakti Cafe (and bringing everyone you can!) you will do much more than just support our little business venture. Your patronage will help realize the vision of the Cultural center that I indicated in the beginning of my letter. If you can help the cafe get through this initial stage of struggle by your regular support, this Cafe will become the gateway for hundreds and thousands of people to discover Krishna every year!
Our restaurant consultant who has been advising us has a mantra for increasing business that “people attract people.” In other words, the best thing we can do to attract business to the Bhakti Cafe is to have the place filled with smiling happy people. Whatever promotion we will develop in the next few months will be deeply enhanced by having a place that is already bustling with energy.
In response to a request devotees have made to see more of our regular cooking on the menu the Bhakti Café will soon introduce a nightly special which will include rice, a subji, dal and halava and hope this will further inspire you to come. I will be sending out regular updates to let you all know how close we are to our goal and will recognize and appreciate those who are making exceptional strides to help this incredibly important project!
I hope this is a service you can all sink your teeth into! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)
In the service of Sri Sri Radha Muralidhara and Srila Prabhupada,
Yajna Purusa Das