Funkee's Cafe: Sustainability with a Side of Gelato

Jul 31, 2017 2:00 PM ET

MARION, Ark., July 31, 2017 / 3BL Media - Funkee’s Café (Funkee’s) opened its doors in Marion, Arkansas in October of 2015. Funkee’s was founded by business owner, Mary Singer. The cafe serves a wide range of delicious and authentic Italian delicacies, such as Gelato and gourmet coffees as well as a variety of freshly made locally grown herbs for salads and deli sandwiches.   

Funkee’s is a meeting place for the community. Local residents celebrate birthdays, baby showers, networking events and luncheons in the Events Room. In response to strong demand, Funkee’s opened a food truck this summer to make it possible for more people to enjoy their popular lunch offerings.

One of Mary’s inspirations for opening Funkee’s was the significant Italian American heritage of Arkansas. Italian Americans have maintained a presence since the nineteenth century in the state and have had a consistent and significant impact on the economic and cultural development in the region.  Mary wanted to connect to that heritage by offering genuine and authentic Italian delicacies she came to love after years of business trips to Italy. Wandering the cities of Italy, she developed fond memories of sampling the local cuisine. “When I was in Italy, I found it impossible not to try the delicious local food. When I opened Funkee’s, I wanted to bring that wonderful experience to Marion.”

Funkee’s offers Italian specialty coffees, rich Gelato and light meals made from fresh, local suppliers. “We’re not a chain,” Singer said. “We’re local. Our employees are local. Our purpose is to serve the local community.” Authenticity was also a top priority. She purchased the equipment needed to produce authentic Italian Gelato and New Orleans shaved ice.    

Community Involvement
From day one, Funkee’s has been an active participant in the community. Mary has made it into a gathering place for both sustainability and environmental organizations in the region. In 2016, Funkee’s hosted the first Arkansas meeting of the International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP) for the Arkansas/Mississippi/Tennessee region (a chapter Mary launched in 2014). Also in 2016, Funkee’s hosted an Arkansas Recycling Coalition (ARC) meeting. ARC promotes and supports innovative recycling, reuse and waste reduction practices in the Arkansas business community. Mary received the “ARC 2016 Community Involvement Award” for the event and for her active participation in the organization.    

CurrentState™ Restaurant Sustainability Audit
In July of 2016, Funkee’s decided to conduct the CurrentState™ Restaurant sustainability audit. “We wanted to make sure we were being as sustainable as possible”, says Mary. “We were making sustainable and local food purchases whenever possible, but we knew that there was more that we could be doing.”

CurrentState™ Restaurant provides a comprehensive audit of five key food service sustainability categories: operations, facilities, waste management, food safety and state health department regulations. The audit compares an establishment’s policies, procedures and practices in these areas to industry best practices. Once the survey has been completed, a Finding Report is created. The report scores the restaurant’s performance in each category, identifies which practices they are doing well and where opportunities for improvement exist. The Findings Report includes a detailed task list that can be used as a ‘sustainability improvement plan’.  

“We were very pleased with the CurrentState™ process. It was easy to complete and we received our report within a week.  We now have a crystal-clear understanding of what things we need to do to become more sustainable,” says Mrs. Singer.

Some of Funkee’s best practices the audit identified include:

  • using a start-up and shut-down schedule for the HVAC system. The schedule conserves energy through seasonal temperature adjustments.
  • recycling all cardboard and plastic containers. The number of milk containers needed to make gelato created a potentially significant waste stream.
  • deciding not to serve fried foods. The lack of fried foods makes their menu healthier and reduces their food preparation waste stream.

“In addition to letting us know where we were doing well, the audit provided a menu of activities we could do to improve our sustainability across the entire restaurant that we hadn’t even considered,” says Mrs. Singer.

New actions Funkee’s has taken because of the audit include:

  • implementing new ways to reduce food waste. They have reached out to ARC to identify more practices they can use.
  • growing their own herbs in a garden in front of the restaurant.
  • implementing a regular schedule for grease trap maintenance.
  • using additional screens for three compartment sink drains to catch as much food waste as possible and keeping pipes clear.

In Conclusion
Offering local foods on the menu is the beginning point for becoming a more sustainable restaurant. However, sustainable practices are needed in all areas of operations to be a sustainability leader. Community involvement, waste reduction, food safety and efficient operations are critical components of running a sustainable establishment. Funkee’s is well on its way to becoming a sustainability leader in its community due to its actions within its community and its excellent sustainability practices. 

About Funkee’s Cafe
Funkee’s Café is located in Marion, Arkansas. Funkee’s serves Italian gelato, gourmet coffees, authentic New Orleans shaved ice and a variety of fresh deli sandwiches. Funkee’s was founded by local businesswoman Mary Singer in 2015.