The quaint and cozy restaurant located at 224 E. Virginia St. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to using its resources to train and employ adults with special needs.
“We are changing the world one hug at a time,” Hugs Café Founder and President Ruth Thompson said.
Thompson said she has always been passionate about helping those with special needs and disabilities. In 2012 she wanted to use her passion to start a restaurant that employs adults with special needs. Three years later, she opened Hugs Café in downtown McKinney.
The most rewarding part of running Hugs is seeing lives change and giving people a purpose, Thompson said.
“At 21, these young adults [are out]of school where they have been with their peers their whole lives,” she said. “If their parents can’t afford an expensive day program, they are stuck at home with nothing to do. It can be a sad existence.”
To fulfill the purpose of Hugs, Thompson said the restaurant modifies job tasks to meet the ability of the individual employee.
“We want our teammates doing the work,” she said. “When someone orders a lunch plate with a sandwich and salad, there are probably three teammates working on that plate. Our ‘Bread Queen’ is responsible for every piece of toast, and someone else puts together the salad. It’s very specialized.”
Hugs Café serves sandwiches, soups and salads. Some recipes, such as the Hammy Swiss and Peach Gobbler, have been handcrafted by a team of top chefs.
“We wouldn’t be much of a restaurant without a great menu,” Thompson said. “We have awesome food.”
Thompson said she credits the restaurant’s success to divine intervention.
“Everything that has helped us get where we are today has been God-led,” she said. “That’s why we pray every day before the ‘Open’ sign comes on.”
True to the sign on the wall that reads, “Have you had your Hugs today?” Thompson said the atmosphere at the cafe lends itself to giving everyone a warm and fuzzy feeling.
“What we’ve done here is infectious,” Thompson said. “You might walk in here in a bad mood, but you cannot walk out of Hugs in a bad mood.”