Breno Donatti © Courtesy of Winfield Street Coffee
By Allie Murray
When Breno Donatti immigrated to the United States from Brazil at the age of 18, he found himself thrust into the restaurant industry despite speaking little English and having no previous experience working in restaurants. However, when the opportunity presented itself, he knew it was one he wanted to embrace wholeheartedly.
He began his career as a dishwasher in a pizza restaurant in Connecticut and was amazed by the opportunities that awaited him in the U.S.
“I fell in love with the environment and with American culture,” he said. “It was inspiring to hear the countless stories of people who tried their luck in this country and were able to build a life for themselves.”
From his humble beginnings in Connecticut, Donatti watched other immigrants working tirelessly to create a life for themselves in the United States, through which they discovered a passion for the restaurant industry. By working with these people, he found the same passions, leading him towards working in countless different restaurants, serving all sorts of cuisines, and understanding the work it took to create his own restaurant.
“One of my fondest memories, which still comes to my mind every time I’m frustrated with unfinished work, is of the owner telling me to go home, ‘It is ok, Breno, tomorrow is a brand new day,’” he shared, reminiscing on the first pizza restaurant he worked at in Connecticut. “That image helps me get at ease when I am overwhelmed and think I am not able.”
After many years of working in the industry—from a dishwasher, to a barista, to an oyster chef, and many other positions—Donatti purchased the old Winfield Delicatessen and transformed it into a cafe, renaming it to Winfield Street Coffee.
Today, the café has expanded to locations across the U.S., including three in New York City, two in Florida, and three in Connecticut.
After the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc in New York City, the brand had to find a way not only to pivot their operations, but to find a unique way to stand out and support themselves and the people of New York.
To do so, they set out on a goal to donate 10,000 meals in 2020 to families in Stamford, Corton, Westport, Norwalk, and Bridgeport areas. That initiative continued to grow year after year, and the team set out to donate 20,000 meals by the end of 2022.
“When the pandemic happened, we all felt pretty powerless,” Donatti shared. “So I looked around and wanted to find something that we could help with, that we could leverage our own resources to help people most affected by the shutdown.”
For every order $20 or higher, Winfield Coffee committed to donating one meal. The average cost of the meals was priced at $5.77 and consisted of one sandwich or grain bowl plus a chocolate cookie. The coffee shop partnered with shelters to donate the meals bi-weekly. The fundraiser was open to not only patrons visiting the coffee shop, but also accepted donations from other coffee shops in the U.S., community nonprofits, and donors.
Donatti shared that this initiative brought energy and excitement to the staff, who had been working tirelessly throughout the pandemic. Similarly, Donatti explained that Winfield Coffee operates on a mission of being a place where guests can find a warm smile, excellent coffee, and creative food.
“That part of our mission is not going to change,” he said, addressing the charitable plans for 2023. “We will continue to find ways to help organizations and leverage our resources to assist people in need.”
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