Comfort, a popular restaurant in downtown Richmond, will change its business model as of Thursday so that all of its net proceeds go toward fighting hunger.
Comfort co-owners Jason Alley and Michele Jones will begin giving 100 percent of their net profits — what’s left once they pay their staff and their bills — to FeedMore, which serves more than 200,000 people in central Virginia by providing meals and other food-related services.
Alley opened Comfort at 200 W. Broad St. in 2002 — years before Richmond’s dining scene began garnering national attention — and he’s credited with helping to put Richmond dining — and downtown — on the culinary map. He was named a Richmond Times-Dispatch Person of the Year honoree in 2017 for his role in developing the local food scene.
Alley and Jones also own two other Richmond restaurants: Pasture and Flora.
Alley has been involved with a number of hunger-related organizations over the past few years, including No Kid Hungry and Breakfast After the Bell, part of the federally funded school breakfast program. He said he and Jones had been looking to make a bigger impact within the Richmond community for some time — even toying with the idea of opening a “charitable restaurant” — so doing this with one of their existing establishments “is really just the next natural step in what we’ve been doing — it’s something that’s really important to us.”
Alley and Jones have been involved in FeedMore for years, including by donating proceeds from the annual Off Broad Appétit dinner to the hunger-relief organization. The pair also has hosted Thanksgiving dinner for children in Virginia’s foster care system at Pasture and, since 2014, annual holiday gift drives and toiletry and luggage collections to benefit local foster kids through Connecting Hearts in Virginia.
Alley and Jones aren’t strangers to food insecurities — both say they faced hunger as children.
“When we were growing up, there was no reason to think we’d be where we are,” Alley said, referring to their position as owners of three restaurants. But now that they have the means, “it’s time for us to give back,” he said.
Alley couldn’t yet provide data on how much money Comfort will generate for FeedMore. But he also said this is as much about raising awareness as bringing in the dollars.
“It’s amazing how many people we encounter that don’t know what FeedMore is,” he said. He said he’s hoping other businesses follow suit.
Alley said they chose Comfort because it’s where he and Jones met. He also said the name and the food served there — it’s known for its plates of meatloaf and mashed potatoes and other comfort foods — speak to their mission.
In a written statement, FeedMore CEO Doug Pick called this new business model “groundbreaking.”
“We’re so excited to partner with Comfort on the fight to end hunger,” he said, adding that these new efforts “will be so impactful for our community.”
Comfort’s menu won’t change — the only thing that changes is what happens once patrons pay their bills, Alley said, adding that the restaurant’s staff will be trained to talk to customers about FeedMore and ways they can help outside of the restaurant.
“Let us do that work for you,” Alley said, referring to the act of donating money to a good cause. “You just come in and eat and feel good about it.”
Reservations are being accepted for this Friday to accommodate the First Fridays crowd. Reservations can be made online at ComfortRichmondVA.com or by calling (804) 780-0004.