Dining for a good cause

Pop-up restaurant Happietaria opens its doors again

The pop-up restaurant Happietaria. Photo: courtesy of the restaurant

Happietaria is a well-known phenomenon in Utrecht. The pop-up restaurant is entirely run by volunteer students, who do everything, from fundraising to cooking to serving. The project happens in other cities too, such as Amsterdam, Wageningen and Nijmegen.

The Utrecht branch of Happietaria is located in the Tolsteeg area this year – on Saffierlaan Avenue, to be more precise. The pop-up restaurant is using the space usually run by Kaffeetaria, a coffee bar in the old canteen of a care home. Customers are welcome from Monday to Saturday. 

The menu is different from last year’s and it takes vegetarian and vegan preferences into account. Chairman Jonathan van Deutekom, History student: “We’d like to become more sustainable. We do have some meat products on our menu, but they’re organic, from a quality butcher. In addition, we pick up our products by bike rather than by car whenever possible.” 

Good cause
Last year, the restaurant raised 31,000 euros, which were donated to a peacebuilding project in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, and South Sudan. 

This year, the Happietaria team chose to help provide safe drinking water in Uganda. Jonathan: “It’s self-evident for us to get fresh water from our taps, so it’s absurd that others have to walk 25 kilometres just to get clean water.” 

The proceeds will go to projects that aim to construct water reservoirs and provide clean water. “Our ultimate goal is for people not to have to walk more than 200 metres to get clean drinking water.” 

Voorzitter Happietaria

Better image
Jonathan says that when he was asked to be the chair of this year's restaurant, he immediately thought it would be a great way to develop himself. “You learn things that aren’t necessarily discussed in your study programme’s work groups.” 

Jonathan would like to show the outside world that students do more than roam the streets at night. “I think it’s important that students shake off that image. They can set up an entire restaurant too.” 

He admits that the preparations can be quite challenging at times: “In previous years, we set up our restaurant inside the De Ster windmill in Lombok, but it wasn’t possible to do that this year. When something like this happens, you quickly learn how many restaurant-related permits the municipality deems necessary.” 

Obtaining permits can take up to eight weeks. “The municipality receives thousands of event requests. Try to butt in there as a charity project to ask for a shorter waiting time. That’s very tricky.” 

But that's not the only hiccup they had to face. It proved quite difficult to get enough volunteers to sign up this year. “We had serious issues trying to fill the various committees. That meant we were at a much later stage when the team was finally complete compared to last year,” says Jonathan. 

Restaurant Happietaria will run from February 20 until March 23. They are still looking for volunteers for tasks such as dishwashing and waiting tables. You can help out for multiple days or just do it once. You can also sign up with a friend. Interested? Visit their website.

If you're not looking for a volunteer position, you can still help the project out by dining there. Reservations can also be made on this website