Picture from Izlelo

Key facts

  • Holding organisation: Kek Madar Foundation (Blue Bird Foundation- Hungarian Foundation promoting a society offering opportunities and choices for all individuals)
  • Status: Foundation
  • Financing: Social enterprise: restaurant activity income+ public and private starting inputs+ donations
  • People involved in the project: staff of 13 (8 disabled persons in food preparation, kitchen logistics and customers service; supervision by 2 master chefs and a dietetician+ 2 other managers)
  • Public Partners: European Union (European Social Fund)/ The Government of Hungary
  • Private Partners: NESst (an international nonprofit organization developing sustainable social enterprises that solve critical social problems in emerging market economies)/ T-Com
  • Creation Date: 2007
  • Contact Persons: Andrea Mészáros/ etterem à kek-madar.hu
  • Main project links: http://www.kek-madar.hu/english

The idea

Inclusion of handicapped persons: Izlelo is the first restaurant in Hungary, which provides skill training and permanent employment to people with disabilities. Sustainable business model: Kék Madár (Blue Bird Foundation), has implemented a social enterprise that offers jobs to people with disabilities where they can actually create value that meets existing market demand, enabling the longterm sustainability of the enterprise and thus their jobs.

How it started

Andrea Mészáros, the executive director of Kek Madar (Blue Bird) is a passionnate social entrepreneur who has been working in the non-profit sector in management, fundraising and training and came with this restaurant project’s idea. In the 1990’s, she heard of a similar restaurant project in the Netherlands, her idea was to replicate and find a sustainable model where disabled persons would be in direct contact with the rest of the society in their daily work. She believes indeeed that persons with diasbilities are as diverse and varied as the society. In 2006, The Foundation Kek Madar started a one-year training program supported by the EU (LIFT) for people with low educational levels and disabilities to acquire new skills to enable them to find work. The catering was among the offered courses (building skills was the other one). In 2007, 6 of the 16 trained persons in catering started to work in the newborn restaurant.

The local context

The employment rate of people with disabilities in Hungary is outstandingly low: 9%. Latests statistics In 2008, there were 66, 000 people with disabilities employed in jobs supported by state subsidies and 42,000 registered as job seekers. Most existing employment models for disabled people only function thanks to state subsidies, but the products manufactured and services offered are often not marketable. The restaurant is located in the center of a small town Szekszard ( (30,000 inhabitants) in south-west Hungary and has proved to be an attractive and competitive propoisiton in the area : half of the clients are regular customers.

How does it work?

FOCUS: High Quality food and services and social mission The social mission Izlelo is a family conscious restaurant creating employment for those handicapped trained in the LIFT project. LIFT Likeliness – Integration – Full employment – Training, launched by the Blue Bird Foundation in June 2006, is a one year paid courses program focusing on young persons wih disabilities and low-qualifications to provide them with the adequate competences to find a job in the regular market. Among the 16 people in catering course, 6 started to work in the restaurant.

High-quality Family Restaurant The general functioning and quality level are not different from another restaurant but the organization is adapted to the employee’s profiles and abilities. The inner qualities of the individuals and their motivation count first in the restaurant. For instance, the cookers who have hearing disabilities get the chef instructions and tasks distribution by reading on his lips. Services: Health-oriented selection of meals/ 3 different menus (traditional, light, vegetarian) which vary from day to day with seasonable products. A tailored menu can be prepared for specific diet is also available (diabetes/food allergy/) The family offers and indoor playing area for children and can be privatized for exclusive parties. The Ízlelő kitchen prepares up to 140 meals each day, 40% of them for takeaway customers The restaurant has won several prizes: in 2008 the White Lily Award recipient for kitchen and restaurant hygiene, in 2009 the Social Enterprise Competition Award winner of NESsT and Citibank, in 2011 winning a special prize in the category of small and medium size enterprises of the CSR Market Hungary.

Added value of the project and making resources available

Inclusion and empowerment: the restaurant employs different profiles of persons with disabilities who are able to find their place and provide their inner qualities to a rigorous quality project Support and training: After working and gaining experience in the restaurant, beneficiaries go on to find employment in the open job market. Izlelo has already helped place 7 persons in the open job market. Sustainable model: the restaurant model was designed to be rapidly self-sufficient. After 8 months the budget was in equilibrium and after 1 year, the restaurant was generating profit. The idea is to prove the “markability” and value of such projects in the current system.


Stay competitive and attractive during the crisis and a general lower attendance level in restaurants

Future perspective

The restaurant is expanding its seating capacity 4-fold. It has received a loan from the NESst Foundation to buy the building and European money to renovate it. http://www.nesst.org/blog/2013/04/10/congratulations-kek-madar/ It is also planning to replicate its model in 3-5 other locations within Hungary in the next 5 years aiming to train and employ an additional 150 disabled Beneficiaries.

Sources and links

Izlelo Restaurant: http://www.izleloetterem.hu/english Press article (French) on the restaurant: http://www.evahandicap-teteghem.fr/index.php/temoignages/12-qje-nai-encore-renverse-aucun-platq.html European Social Fund page on the LIFT project: http://ec.europa.eu/esf/main.jsp?catId=369&langId=en&featuresId=206 Portrait of the Founder: http://www.nesst.org/?team-member=andrea-meszaros

Other valuable projects

NOS PILIFS FARM (BELGIUM) is a sustainable Urban farm in Brussels employing 160 persons (among them 130 disabled) that offers a large set of services: natural gardening services, a tree nursery, a chicken farm, a Bio and local food shop (organic baskets delivery), a traditional bakery and a small restaurant. The Farm covers 60% of its costs with commercial activity, the other 40% is supported by public subsidies (work adaptation process). Quality is key for the farm which holds different labels (2-star Ecodynamic Company label, which is an official recognition of the farm's environmentally viable practices) MORE INFO : http://www.fermenospilifs.be/ http://tebiki.be/2011/06/20/future-generations-grand-prix-winner-la-ferme-nos-pilifs/

Té/TRAITEUR ETHIQUE (FRANCE) is a Work Integration social enterprise (WISE) operating in the high-end catering industry, which improves the employability of people structurally excluded from the job market by offering them a job opportunity, training and social support. Over the past 12 years, Té – Traiteur Ethique has had a significant impact at the local scale. 500 people have been hired and trained since 2001 that is 60 every year. 79% of the former employees have found a job or have pursued their training after the end of their contract with Té -Traiteur Ethique. Besides the social commitment, Té -Traiteur Ethique opted for a comprehensive approach to sustainable development: environmentallyfriendly production methods and equipment; organic fair trade products. MORE INFO : www.traiteur-ethique.com

FARINEZ-VOUS (FRANCE): First Parisian social Bakery that offers a different way of eating, attentive to the social and environmental consequences of its activities. 60% of the employed persons are in insertion. MORE INFO: http://www.farinez-vous.com/ Video of the project