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Naked Lunch: A Statement To The Ann Arbor Community

Naked Lunch: A Statement To The Ann Arbor Community image
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For some time those of us who have worked to create "Naked Lunch" have felt it important to share with the Ann Arbor community what we are all about. This statement has been written to give you an idea of how this restaurant is operated and why it was started. Naked Lunch began as an experiment, to see if a collection of persons with very little capital could create and provide for the Ann Arbor community good natural food at reasonably low prices and a plesant environment in which to serve.

We are all former students–some of us have graduated, others not-–with diverse backgrounds touching on our common interest in a consciousness of what it is that we eat and how it is prepared. Naked Lunch grew out of our own needs and those of our people to have an inexpensive restaurant which would be an alternative to the plastic convenience food establishments in this area. We wanted a restaurant that served food that is fresh, healthy and carefully prepared, and which would serve as a resource for learning about good eating and natural foods in a comfortable atmosphere in which to get together. As important as serving good food, it was our desire that our prices be based on the actual cost of the food and service, rather than on a profit motive and that the restaurant be run with people collectively sharing responsibilities and being paid according to need.

Our collective personal politics directed us to approach Naked Lunch as a challenge-–to take direct control of the circumstances of our lives, to deal with the economic reality of attaining a balance in the dialectic between desire and need, and use what we have to get what we need.

We started selling sandwiches on the diag in the late summer–still trying to figure a way to get a restaurant together. We spoke to a lot of people and found many who shared our needs. Because of the exorbitant rental rates and the uncomprimising health regulations in Ann Arbor, the cost of opening a restaurant was prohibitive. We know that a conventional establishment would be too expensive to operate unless the financial responsibilities were shifted to the customers, i.e. high prices, low quality, or a combination of both. Fortunately, we thought of approaching this church to use their already existing kitchen and dining facilities. They were open to the idea and by doing all of the work ourselves, buying used equipment and getting help from our friends the restaurant became a reality.

Naked Lunch is staffed by five people. We do most of all the work and have been assisted by volunteers who work for a meal. Up to this point we have not been able to pay any wages to ourselves or anyone else, for us what this means is a 12-14 hour day with no pay. We need to draw a subsistance salary from the operation. So far that has been difficult because we have tired to keep costs as low as possible and serve food of high quality.

Our weekly expenses look roughly like this:

Produce and Food Approx. $300.00

Linen (we avoid using paper)... 3.00

Bank charges, phone bill, gas, advertising, hardware, kitchen utensils and supplies, rent and miscellaneous expenses 120.00

Total (not including salaries).... $423.00

This means we must take in around $100 each day to cover the cost of operation alone, and this does not include labor. To compensate ourselves, even on a bare subsistance level, we must take in an additional $45.00 each day. We have taken in an average of $75.57 a day, ranging from a low of $32.37 to a high of $117.15. This is much less than the $145.00 we need.

With our prices set at their current low level, this all adds up to the fact that we need to serve around 175-200 meals each day–all in a 314 hour period, with the majority of these occuring in one hour!!! Clearly, this is a difficult, if not impossible task. In order for Naked Lunch to stay in operation as a service to the Ann Arbor community, we're going to need some help and cooperation from you.

We ask that you use only what you need and not waste food or linens, that you help us keep Naked Lunch clean by carrying your own dishes to be washed and cleaning up the tablecloths if they get dirty, and if you have the time, to volunteer for part of the day to help us set-up, serve and clean-up after lunch. Also, understand that we are not in a conventional restaurant business–in a purely service relationship with our hassles compensated for by profits. That is to say, you are getting high quality food, carefully prepared and you are paying only for the cost of materials and operation, at this point excluding the cost of labor–our survival. So please understand that although our menu has been carefully planned to include a variety of foods to suit many diets, we may not always have what you want.

We understand that many of our customers either work or have classes and this means that they only have limited time for lunch. Consequently, we have a large number of rushed customers in the period from noon until one pm. We are limited in our facilities and are trying our best to meet these needs. There are a few things you can do to help us through this busy period. Please have your order and money ready, and if you want to talk with us about anything–complaints, suggestions, recipes or questions–please wait and come back later, after 1:30 pm and before 3:30 pm. Also, please don't crowd the order and pickup window–things are confusing enough as it is.

Naked Lunch has some overall problems and needs we think you should know. Recently we were informed by the state that we must charge sales tax. So charge we must, though we don't dig it, as much as you may not like paying the extra percentage. We also need a van to pick up food, as we are currently dependent on a rapidly disintegrating, semi-dysfunctional VW bug. It barely runs and has little space. If you have a van you are willing to loan or want to sell, please see us. We are short on refigerator space, so we must purchase produce often, at higher cost and less convenience. If you can help us with this problem, let us know. We need more business to survive. Please turn your friends on to Naked Lunch, bring them to lunch, and if you have luncheon meetings, we will gladly serve you–it'll help if we have some advance notice.

We have grown organically from a small collection of persons to a collective based in our shared consciousness, labor and warm relationships. Our choice has been to grow slowly, without the imposition of ponderous and outmoded structures and authoritarian ideologies. Naked Lunch is change. We would like to see Naked Lunch become a vital community restaurant, and more, a center for consciousness of food. We would like to provide information, pamphlets, a cookbook, cooking classes, etc. We would like to see Naked Lunch become a soruce for good food, information, good relationships, and a livelihood for members of the Ann Arbor community, and most important we would like to provide a sense of place for healthful growth and living. Our address is 331 Thompson, in the Father Newman Center.