Kai with a side dish of kindness

This week, Volunteer and Writer, Angela Robinson, caught up with Restaurant & Volunteer Manager, Amanda Butland, to hear about her journey and what it’s like to be at the forefront of our Onehunga dining experience.


Finding her niche

Amanda Butland, Onehunga Restaurant & Volunteer Manager and Food Rescue Van Driver (a title that ought to end in ‘Extraordinaire)’, has the distracted demeanour of someone with too many balls in the air. She’s no stranger to the demands of hospitality, having worked in an assortment of restaurants, bars and catering establishments, but at Everybody Eats she’s found her calling.

Amanda’s journey began in 2018 as a volunteer at EE’s K-Road pop-up. “I wanted to do something worthwhile with my spare time. Food was something I understood and environmental issues were important to me. I fell in love with it from my first shift!” Fast-forward to a conversation later that year with founder, Nick Loosley. “I asked if he was considering opening a permanent restaurant. He turned his computer screen around to show me a job description for a Restaurant & Volunteer Manager. It was serendipity.”

Everybody Eats has been an intensely personal journey for Amanda. “I love this place” she says, beaming. “It’s not like coming to work, it’s coming to my life.”. A stark contrast to the Amanda of old, an introverted character who made several applications to work in Antarctica. “I’m surrounded by love and gratitude here and have gotten in touch with skills I’d forgotten about. I realised that helping vulnerable people is at the heart of who I am. I used to be super-tough and didn’t let anyone in. This place has opened me up, made me softer” she says with a furtive smile. But she acknowledges there’s a balance to be struck. “I feel people’s hurt and can get too immersed in their lives. I’ve learnt to keep a healthier distance.” She recounts a life punctuated with ‘taking in strays’, from kittens to boyfriends. “It’s easier to fix someone else’s problems than your own, right?” She admits that being kind hasn’t always paid off, but here it goes a really long way as regular diner, Daniel, poignantly expressed in our diner story series.


A typical day

Five days a week, you’ll find Amanda beckoning diners from all walks of life through the door with unwavering warmth. Guests are seated at communal tables, where a corporate executive may be rubbing shoulders with a homeless person. Diner feedback is testament to the unique atmosphere created by Amanda and her band of warm-hearted volunteers. “The atmosphere here is different, because no one is paid to turn up...their motivation is purely to serve. People often say it’s the best service they’ve ever had” There’s a relaxed and friendly vibe in the restaurant and a special ingredient that’s hard to put your finger on. It feels more like the dining room of an old friend. “Heartfelt” is the closest I get.

When Amanda’s not zipping off on regular food rescue missions in the distinctive EE electric van, she spends much of her time managing the considerable volunteer effort that drives the Everybody Eats experience. With only a handful of permanent roles, managing the rosters for 100 kitchen prep and service volunteer shifts each week is a constant challenge and one that requires coaching volunteers of all abilities on a daily basis. Managing a different team every day and never being able to plan what dishes will be served is a tall order, but she always manages to pull it off.

More than a full belly

Briefings completed, the evening’s volunteer crew swing into action, plating up dishes and serving guests. “We work hard to create a safe, comforting place where there’s no judgement. We can’t make any assumptions. That well-dressed couple over there could have just lost their corporate jobs and be struggling with food insecurity as much as the guy next to them in the tracksuit and jandals.” she explains. “But everyone who dines here is helping to prevent food waste.”

The nourishment at Everybody Eats goes far beyond filling bellies. It’s a dining experience with connection at its heart that brings people together as equals. Many who face social isolation turn up alone, knowing they will be matched with someone else who’s on their own. “One diner came here for dinner on her way home. She’d just been for a scan that found a brain tumour and wanted

a couple of hours in a calm place to think about how she would tell her family.” Amanda recounts.

She motions to the display of feather earrings on the counter, crafted by a local artist. “The birthday of one of our regular Mums was coming up, and her kids didn’t have the money to buy her a present. I noticed Mum admiring the earrings and knew the artist would be open to gifting a pair to someone who couldn’t afford them.” So she fixed it so that two kids got to give their Mum a birthday present she treasured. I get the sense there are many more tender stories like these, but Restaurant Manager Extraordinaire is needed elsewhere.

The Everybody Eats concept was born of a mission to prevent food waste, but has woven an intricate web of comfort for its patrons and helpers. For some, relieving hunger and loneliness, for others providing a sense of purpose and belonging. The special ingredient is suddenly clear. It’s love…at every step. Lovingly prepared food delivered with warmth and care in a place that feels like home. The kind of experience that satisfies our hunger on every level.

Article by Angela Robinson from Warbler Communications.

Warbler creates brands and communications with a heart. We make causes and organisations stand out from the crowd by finding their authentic voice and creating a dialogue around the things that make them great.


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