Locals to test a membership-based restaurant concept

Cam Williams' family has been hosting a homemade gift exchange for about 50 years. And somewhere along the way, the tradition was made more colorful by a quirky gift.

“One year, someone got lazy and took a flamingo ornament from their yard and wrapped it up,” Williams said. “And so every year it's been given to somebody else. … [It] creates a conversation for other people to tell us stories about their family traditions.”

Williams and 17 others will strive to replicate a similar sense of community through The Pink Flamingo, a membership-based restaurant they created to allow individuals to pay up front to attend regular group dinners.

“We want to have a safe space for people to come and feel warm and connected,” Williams explained. “It's very easy for our generation and society as a whole to have a lot of online relationships and shop online [and] have food delivered to us.”

Until they can establish a brick and mortar, The Pink Flamingo organizers are testing eight pop-ups at different locations every other week through March. The first will take place Thursday, Dec. 7, at Endeavor Brewing. The current membership fee is $60, which covers the eight-dinner run.

Using locally sourced, primarily organic produce, The Pink Flamingo staff will prepare vegetarian/vegan offerings like lentil mash, butternut squash puree, roasted cauliflower and a secret “flamingo sauce.” Patrons will be able to serve themselves.

“We're not trying to make lasagna or something super complicated,” said organizer Alex Bell. “You can mix and match things that you like.”

“I think it makes being vegan or vegetarian more approachable,” added organizer Erin Halleran. “It's a good way for me to learn new ways to cook and new ways to find nutrition for myself.”

According to Williams, the company will need to have over 250 members at varying membership tiers —similar to a university dining hall pass system — to sustain its own space. For example, the organizers hope to eventually move to a monthly membership where participants can either attend a dinner each day, or utilize a four-meal pass for the month.

Ideally, the business would hire up to 25 people in the future.

“We want to give everyone a fair chance at employment, [including] people coming out of poverty,” Williams said.

Williams, Bell and Halleran met while working in the food industry and noticed they shared similar values. “All of our experiences are around trying to make sustainable impact in our community,” Williams said. “The goal is not to make a profit. … We're trying to make our own money to do social good.”

“[That] is social justice and environmental rejuvenation,” he continued. “[And] being good to ourselves and being good to the people around us.”