Paintbox Bistro and Catering is a bistro, event space host and catering company. The company is innovative in its business model, becoming the first B-Corporation in the catering industry in Canada (Paintbox Catering and Bistro, 2019). Paintbox positively impacts the environment and community in every aspect of their business, from its employment processes to its supply-chain. The company benefits its community through its training programs and unique initiatives. Paintbox also benefits the environment through its vegetarian menu, renewable energy facilities, and locally sourced supplies.
York University- Schulich School of Business
As the first B-Corporation in the Canadian catering industry, Paintbox has been an industry leader in sustainability (Paintbox Catering and Bistro, 2019). Paintbox uses an innovative business model that aims to positively impact its local community and the environment in every aspect of the business, from its hiring process to its supply-chain. Their business model serves their mission and purpose of benefiting the marginalized Regent Park community and acting sustainability in every part of their operations.
The company and its unique recruitment processes and training programs were established by founder and owner Christopher Klugman in partnership with Toronto Community Housing. Paintbox was part of a larger initiative to redevelop the Regent Park neighbourhood. When Toronto Community Housing was beginning their initiative at Regent Park, they reached out to Klugman to be an entrepreneur in the Regent Park neighbourhood. With the help of an advisory council and social service professionals, they came up with the idea of what Paintbox should be. Initially, Paintbox was created to provide more employment opportunities within Regent Park. Paintbox therefore has a hiring mandate to members of the Regent Park community who are in need, training them to develop soft skills they can use in the workforce in the future.
In addition to its initial hiring mandate and training, Paintbox has added various initiatives to support the development of their community, such as the Community Buffet. The Community Buffet is a partnership with the Regent Park Catering Collective, a local catering collective owned by women from different parts of the world. The Community Buffet is an expansion of their training programs – each month, they train and mentor a female chef to learn proper food-handling skills and receive their food-handling certifications. At the end of the month, the chef is given the opportunity to prepare a menu of foods from their home country to serve to the community. This allows for the community to enjoy a diverse range of foods at an affordable price ($10 a plate), while helping the professional development of the chefs in training. When speaking about this initiative’s emergence, Gibson said it was a result of the collective’s frequent renting of Paintbox’s kitchen facilities. When the collective had leftover foods from their cooking, they would give them to Paintbox’s staff so as not to waste the food. Gibson noticed the high-quality and diversity of the foods being cooked by the collective and identified an opportunity to positively impact the lives of the female chefs, while also providing Regent Park with delicious, diverse and affordable food.
While Paintbox was initially helping the community through its training program and hiring mandate, the company decided to expand its impact by changing and developing other aspects of their business to benefit the environment. Paintbox later made the decision to become a vegetarian bistro and catering company. According to Gibson, the decision to go vegetarian was “[Paintbox’s] way of introducing healthier food options while considering [their] environmental impact. We were doing research and numbers started coming out about how much energy, water and fuel was being used by testing and producing meat.” In addition to changing their menu to vegetarian, the company decided to locally source a majority of their foods and beverages with some of their food being sourced from an in-house garden. To further increase their positive environmental impact, Paintbox made the decision to use renewable energy sources for their facilities.
The original idea for Paintbox was inspired by needs of the Regent Park community. The advisory committee involved with the creation of Paintbox identified employment opportunities and skill development as a need within Regent Park. The company was therefore designed to provide training and skill development opportunities for community members. When speaking about the creation of Paintbox’s business model, Gibson said that “the number one thing [the advisory team] wanted was training and employment opportunities [for the Regent Park community].” Initially, Paintbox was a fine-dining restaurant and provided training related to fine-dining, however, in order to resonate more with the community members and provide them with more widely applicable skills, it was changed to be a bistro.
The motivation behind creating Paintbox and its business model was to provide a safe space for the community and to give them employment and skill-development opportunities. As the business evolved, its motivations expanded into also benefiting the environment (through locally sourced supplies, serving vegetarian-exclusive foods and beverages, and facilities fuelled by renewable energy).
Paintbox’s innovative business model has a positive impact on the environment, their business and in their community. These positive impacts can be seen in the short term and the long term. Paintbox’s business model has a positive impact on the environment. Serving vegetarian and locally sourced food and beverages reduces the amount of water, fuel and energy used in the production of their products, thus having an overall positive impact on the environment. Paintbox also has facilities that are powered by renewable energy, furthering their positive impact on the environment.
The company is able to positively impact the Regent Park community through their unique recruitment process and hiring mandate, and their Community Buffet initiative. These processes and initiatives give community members the opportunity to develop skills they can use in the future.
In the short term, community members who are involved with Paintbox see an immediate change in their lifestyle and quality of life. When discussing the short-term impact of Paintbox’s business model, Gibson believes that “in the short term, [Paintbox] is creating immediate opportunities in terms of employment, jobs and helping people. We use the industry as a method of intervention with violence. When employing young people rather than [having them] hanging out in the streets, we do see a difference.”
Paintbox’s business model has long-term positive impacts. Gibson describes it as a “trickle-down effect”, in that people form long-lasting relationships while working with Paintbox and will go on to recommend their services to other people in need. Therefore, Paintbox is able to continually help the community. People who have been employed and trained by Paintbox have gone on to have successful careers and make significant contributions to their own families and communities.
Additionally, in the long-term, other businesses in the community have been inspired by Paintbox’s business model and are more interested in making their businesses more sustainable. Businesses in the community have reached out Paintbox in order to learn more about how they can incorporate sustainability in their business practices. When speaking about the company’s long-term impact, Gibson says that “by leading by example, [Paintbox] can inspire other businesses to do better.”
Paintbox has a strong reputation amongst the Regent Park community for the positive impact it has had on the residents. People who have benefited in the past from Paintbox’s training programs have gone on to recommend others to reach out to Paintbox for support. This allows for the company to continually employ people from the community and have a positive impact. By acting as a safe space for the community and employees from the community, Paintbox is able to have a positive impact on their lives.
Paintbox’s business model has also benefited the business by attracting new clients. When businesses and individuals hear about Paintbox’s sustainable business model, they want to work with them and support their purpose.
Paintbox’s decision to exclusively sell vegetarian menu items and to use local suppliers benefits their business financially. Their food costs have been reduced, allowing them to sell their foods and beverages at prices that are more affordable to the community and customers.
Paintbox’s innovative business model has benefited the Regent Park community. Paintbox acts as a supportive environment for community members in their time of need, welcoming community members to their bistro as a place to decompress, regardless of whether they intend to purchase anything. Additionally, through its unique recruiting process and training programs, Paintbox is able to provide residents with the skills they need to succeed in the future. When speaking with Gibson about the positive impact Paintbox has on the community, she mentioned that many former employees were able to have successful careers in various industries. She went on further to say “[people] always say to me: if it weren’t for Paintbox, I don’t know where I would be.” This demonstrates the significant impact the employee training programs have on the Regent Park community.
Choosing to provide healthier, vegetarian options has had a positive impact on the community. In the past, Regent Park has faced health issues due to poor eating and nutrition due to the lack of access to nutritious foods. By offering affordable healthy food options, Paintbox has been able to help address the issue of the lack of healthy food options within the Regent Park community.
Paintbox’s business model has also provided benefits to the environment. By exclusively selling vegetarian foods and beverages, the company is able to eliminate water, fuel and energy consumption that would be used if they served meat products. Furthermore, by choosing to use local suppliers wherever possible, Paintbox is able to reduce the amount of energy required to transport supplies from a far distance. The decision to use facilities powered by renewable energy also benefits the environment.
Paintbox Catering and Bistro. (2019). Paintbox CSR Impact Report 2019. Retrieved February 24, 2020, from https://paintboxcatering.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/PAINTBOX-CSR-IMPACT-REPORT-2019.pdf
Allison Gibson, Director of Impact & Operations
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Toronto, Ontario, CA
Business Website: https://paintboxcatering.ca/
Year Founded: 2012
Number of Employees: 11 to 50
Paintbox is a Toronto based hospitality hub and social enterprise that consists of a plant-based café, catering company and event space.