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More Than a Cuppa: Chatty Café’s Recipe for Community Engagement

Posted on 26 April 2024

19 February 2024 Health & Welfare

‘Chatter and Natter’ tables are a place for customers to sit if they would like to have a conversation with other customers. The scheme operates in 900 cafés, pubs, and community centres, including 440 Costa Coffees, and provides a safe space for customers to get together and reduce loneliness.

The Chatty Cafe Scheme

The Chatty Café Scheme, a not-for-profit organisation, trains local representatives who volunteer to help set up and host the table. The tables tend to run for one or two hours each week on the same day and time.

Alex Hoskyn, who founded the scheme in 2017, says, “Although the aims of the scheme are to reduce loneliness and get people chatting, we decided not to use the word loneliness on any of the publicity that is displayed in cafés. Instead, it is very positive and focuses on bringing people of all ages and from all walks of life together. We want to mix everyone up!”

The benefits of the scheme for café owners include the opportunity to attract more customers outside peak hours, increased footfall, repeat business and promotional exposure on social media, in the local press and on web sites and blogs. By participating in the scheme, the café plays a key role in connecting communities and tackling loneliness.

It’s easy for venues to participate in the scheme. Alex says, “We send cafés all the promotional material, including a poster asking if any customers would be interested in volunteering. We provide all the volunteer training.”

Café owners can sign up on the web site. You need to identify a specific day and time that the ‘Chatter and Natter’ table will be available on a weekly basis and nominate a staff member or volunteer to help host the table by greeting customers and facilitating conversation during the sessions, especially in the first few weeks. Chatty Café signage, which is included in your pack, needs to be displayed in and around the café area. Alex adds, “Encourage the table host to take photos and forward to us so we can put it on our web site and social media. Consent would be required from those sitting at the table before sharing pictures.”

The Lounge Café Bar & Restaurant Has Been Running The Scheme For Over A Year

The Lounge Café Bar & Restaurant in Brackley, Northants, has been running the scheme for over a year since it opened. Richard Rainbow says, “Jon Haslam, a volunteer from the scheme asked me if I would be interested in having a ‘Chatter and Natter’ table. The idea resonated with me. We just added our venue to the Chatty Café web site and pay a yearly subscription for the marketing materials. It makes me feel we are doing something for the community. It also helps us financially, as you know times are hard in the hospitality industry and every little helps, although this was never the main driver. I never expected it to grow so big so quickly. It also gives our venue some good publicity making people aware we are here, and we are a friendly and caring place.”

Find Out How You Can Get Involved With The Chatty Cafe Scheme

As the UK’s leading non-profit organisation tackling loneliness The Chatty Cafe Scheme offers Face to face meet ups, online Chatty Cafe sessions and a telephone friendship service.