What if, by enjoying a tasty sandwich or pasta dish, or a hearty breakfast, you could help someone make his or her way out of being homeless?
They are run by an organization that is what’s known as a social business. That means they follow a structure where all the profits go to a social cause. Social Bite was begun by Alice Thompson and Josh Littlejohn in 2012 as a sandwich shop in Rose Street in Edinburgh, and it has gone on to do many things within its focus: ending homelessness in Scotland.
They go about this in several ways. Among other things, Social Bite has sponsored a fund raiser Sleep Out in the Park in Edinburgh. At several of their cafes, after public open hours several times a week they offer suppers where people who are homeless or on the edge of it can sit in a restaurant and be served a nutritious meal while being treated with dignity, and access support services too if they choose.
But about that tasty sandwich that you can enjoy? The sandwiches and other items really are tasty, and freshly prepared. I have been to the Social Bite location in Saint Vincent Street in Glasgow city center. On my most recent visit, I enjoyed this
It’s a lime, coriander, and coconut chicken salad sub, substantial and well priced at around three pounds sixty pence (around 4.70 usd at this writing) for take away, at about a pound (1.30 usd) more if you choose, as I did on this day, to sit in.
There are many good choices of hot and cold food for both meat eaters and vegetarians. There are bottled drinks and juices, tea and coffee, pasta meals, baked potatoes with toppings, soup, fresh fruit, and desserts usually on offer as well. For a small space in a historic building, the menu offers more choice and wider variety than you may at first expect.
Social Bite Glasgow is well lit, and well designed. There are three booths, each of which could comfortably seat four, six at a pinch. There are also four or five high seats by the front window where you can look out at the street as you enjoy your food, and a couple of tables on the pavement out front too.
Social Bite Glasgow is located in the midst of an area where several restaurants and pubs find themselves, and is just a few blocks away from busy pedestrian Buchanan Street. They do a brisk business in take away for both sandwiches and hot meals; I chose my time carefully on a rainy winter midmorning so I could give you an idea of what the place looks like when it’s a bit quieter.
I have always found staff members to be friendly, welcoming, cheerful, and efficient. Some of the people who work at Social Bite are formerly homeless, while some are not: it makes a good mix, and you’ll not know anyone’s circumstances. The business has training programs for both paid and volunteer work to allow those dealing with being homeless access to careers in the hospitality industry. At this writing. about one quarter of staff across all Social Bite cafes are formerly homeless.
Among Social Bite’s initiatives, there are two in which you can join directly: buying and enjoying their food, and paying it forward. This is, as signage in the Glasgow cafe explains, really easy:
All that said, other than the signage, you’ll not know that Social Bite differs from any other city center sandwich and quick lunch and breakfast stop, except that it’s brighter, better designed, and some of the food choices more adventurous than you may find elsewhere. The prices are good for the area, and the staff has a sense of humor, too.
Social Bite Glasgow is a good place to visit, whatever your thoughts about helping homeless folk. It is an interesting business model, too. You can learn more about what Social Bite is doing and why at their website.
There’s this sign often obscured by the tables out on the pavement, too.
Among other things, they are working on a housing project, and have given grants to other organizations (after taking recommendations from homeless folk) that serve homeless in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, and Aberdeen. Though such documents are often rather dry, the Social Bite Trustees’ Report, which is linked from their website, makes fact filled as well as hopeful and inspiring reading.
If you are inspired by Social Bite but not in Scotland, you can make a pay it forward donation on line at their site, as well.
Perhaps there are groups such as Social Bite in other places where you travel, or where you live. Let us know about them in the comments.
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