Café 31 is a not-for profit community café/hub which provides a welcoming, safe and supportive space for residents, groups and services.
Run by skilled community workers and dedicated volunteers, Café 31 supports people from all walks of life to engage in their community and build relationships around delicious homemade cake and fairtrade coffee... All at unbeatable prices.
"Our aim is to provide a sustainable community-led space in which the boundaries between 'providers and clients' is erased"
We have a wide selection of activities and drop-ins for you to get involved in every single week. We even have a fantastic community garden!
If you would like to come to get involved in one of our groups, speak to local services or simply enjoy a good cup of coffee with friends, come visit us at 31 Market Street, Cinderford, Gloucestershire, GL14 2RT. Parking is available at the nearby District Council car park or at the Belle Vue Centre (GL14 2AB).
To stay up to date with the latest Café 31 news and offers, please follow us on Facebook here
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So how did we get here?
Recent decades have witnessed the disappearance of public spaces. Opportunities for communities to socialise without pressure to spend money have dwindled increasing social isolation and fragmentation. The 'community hub' model is an opportunity to challenge and reverse this decline.
"Our aim is to provide a sustainable, community-led space in which the boundaries between 'providers and clients' are erased."
The success of the 'hub' will be measured in the collaborative partnerships it fosters between both individuals and organisations. The positive impact activities have upon the lives of participants: staff, volunteers, customers, support workers and their clients alike, will provide the evidence of success.
"The principles of equality, inclusivity, and mutual respect will be our foundation."
In order to create a sustainable Café operation the development plan required the consideration of the needs of diverse groups and individuals. The space needed to be multi-purpose whilst ensuring the efficient operation of the cafe function alongside accessibility, flexibility, and user-ownership priorities. An extensive range of factors were addressed in the adoption of a ‘Refurb Plan’ and included the following considerations:
- A fully functional Café kitchen able to provide a range of refreshments and snacks on a daily basis with a 3 person working capacity enabling staff, volunteer and trainee use.
- A fully compliant ‘disability friendly’ facility with additional dementia and baby friendly features.
- The creation of two distinct spaces enabling differentiation between activities and users without significant furniture or resource movement.
- The provision of seating for a minimum and maximum number of users dependant on activity. For example, the operation of the existing youth drop-in required space for at least one table top game and seating for up to 20 users.
- The provision of adequate hub storage to enable the Café and activity functions to operate effectively in a shared space.
- The ability to quickly and fundamentally recast the layout through the use of moveable and temporary fixtures.
The refurbishment of the CANDI building ground floor commenced in the final week of July 2018 and was not fully completed until late September. In total 34 people contributed to the project including 9 local tradespeople, 10 young people undertaking the National Citizenship Award, 3 charitable trustees, 4 members of FVAF staff and 8 community volunteers. It is estimated that approximately 400 person hours were invested in the project of which 30% was undertaken on a voluntary basis. The Refurb was completed marginally under the £10k budget and the areas of expenditure can be simplified as follows:
- 20% Bathroom Facilities
- 10% Kitchen Fixtures
- 20% Kitchen & Café Equipment
- 30% Café Public Space inc floor and furniture
- 10% External Fascia & General Appearance
- 10% Utilities Upgrades
The aim of the Refurb was to create a welcoming and accessible space on a ‘shabby chic/rustic’ feel which through careful colour use could be themed in numerous ways.
The Café Operation
Based on a projection of 30hrs staffing the Café planned to open for 6hrs a day over the working week. The need for staff breaks and holidays reduced the hours available to 26 and it was agreed to plan for half day opening on Fridays and Wednesdays.
As a priority a staff member was assigned responsibility for health and safety, and crucially the Café was awarded a 5 Star Food Hygiene Rating. The Café extended its opening times to include a half day Saturday in December. This was possible due to the contribution of 6 regular weekly volunteers who took on some responsibilities for cleaning, cooking and customer service. With the priority to establish a weekly routine of activities and groups, differing themed days were adopted as follows:
- Mondays to Gardening Club;
- Tuesdays to charitable drop-ins;
- Wednesdays to wellbeing;
- Thurs to Dementia support and;
- Fridays to Craft Club.
Up and running.....
The Café had a soft opening on August 29th attended by The Lord Lieutenant of Gloucestershire and coinciding with the local music festival CindyFest. A food menu was added in mid-September and by early October the Café was fully operational and a weekly schedule of activities established.
The schedule, menu and opening times remained under constant review and several iterations of each were trialed over the first six months of operation.
The successful operation of the ‘community hub’ is entirely dependant upon a diverse range collaborative and cooperative relationships. Where the Café can provide a free activity space and some facilitation it will always depend upon the input of professionals, participants and volunteers to effectively support community groups.
These collaborations can take many different forms from the simplest promotion of another charitable event through to the hosting of a weekly Dementia Alliance Memory Café on behalf of the District Council or a monthly coffee Morning with the local Community Support Officers.
In addition to the facilitation of existing support services the collaborations also include community initiated craft groups, educational mentoring and peer-led mental health support; all of which have been established in the first 6 months of operation. A summary overview of the headlines is as follows:
- Monthly drop-in sessions have been established with The Barnwood Trust, Carers Gloucestershire, Gloucestershire VCS Alliance, Great Oaks Hospice, and Gloucestershire Constabulary. The Barnwood Trust Event is the best attended but poor publicity needs to be addressed.
- Weekly groups currently include Rollercoaster Mental Well-being, Memory Café, Crafty Club and Forest Rocks. Each group has between 6 and 12 regular participants.
- One-off events have been hosted for a range of organisations including FVAF, Foresters Forest, The Citizen’s Advice Bureau, The Asha Centre, and the Forest Youth Association;
- An event held in partnership with St Stephen’s Church to celebrate International Women’s Day through promoting fair trade attracted 65 participants across 4 hours and raised £120 for the Gloucestershire Domestic Abuse Service;
- A special opening on Christmas Day was supported by local charities and individuals enabling a free lunch and refreshment for all comers. In total 23 local residents participated in the event;
- Many differing professionals utilise the Café as an informal meeting space on a regular basis including the social prescribing team, the complex care at home team, the neighbourhood social work team, the community wellbeing team, local councillors and community leaders;
- Weekly footfall is slowly but consistently rising in line with predicted seasonal variations.
The creation of an accessible and welcoming space was the top priority for the Community Hub Pilot. As such significantly more extensive internal modelling was required to enable the fitting of a full compliance toilet suite.
The high cost of this specification meant other areas needed to reduce expenditure and a trade off between the restroom and the Café floor was reached. Although the Café flooring will need regular replacement the ease of access to and from the restroom combined with the enabling equipment installed has been praised by users.
Two participants who regularly attend Crafty Club have noted that it is only due to the facilities that they are confident to take part. This is a USP for the Café which needs to be further publicised to statutory and charitable services across the District.
The Café opened with a float of £20 from which basic supplies were purchased. Other than the purchase of coffee beans and the hire of the coffee machine the intention was to grow stock and product range only as affordable from the Café's own takings. In line with this philosophy the Café started with drinks and pastries before expanding to bread based snacks and ultimately a light meal menu in Jan 2019.
To date the Café has generated a surplus of £1715 which has been banked with FVAF for use in extending the life of the ‘hub pilot’. The average takings per week over the first and second 3 month periods of operation were £82 and £140 respectively with a target set of £200 for period 3 and £260 for period 4. Detailed weekly monitoring was greatly assisted by the introduction of an electronic till in February 2019 and the planned addition of card payments in May is expected to further boost revenue.
A simple analysis of expenditure versus income indicates the Café is working on an approximate average ‘mark-up’ of only 60%. The most profitable regular sale is undoubtedly the barista style coffee where some 86 cups can be brewed from a single £22 bag of beans but in contrast the cost of a small fried breakfast using local produce returned only a 20% raw profit margin. With pricing under constant review difficult decisions regarding the sourcing of stock and the maintenance of an affordable menu are ever present.
The expansion of catering services,piloted at three external events so far, could significantly contribute to raising revenue.
Ensuring the long term commitment of users, funders and the wider community to the Hub Project requires an integrated and holistic approach to community development. As such the combining of the Hub and Cinderford Wellbeing Projects has widened the audience of stakeholders and brought to bear the considerable monitoring and support services of local government agencies and the University of the West of England.
As part of a county wide initiative the CHW project shares experiences, problems, so,unions and outcomes with four other community projects in Tewkesbury, Cheltenham, Stroud and The Cotswolds. Through this collaboration Best Practice models are being developed and tested which should be successful in securing long term future funding.
Fundamentally the longer term operation of the Hub will rely on the participation of the local community and wider publicity and outreach work is a priority for the year ahead.
It is the intention of the Hub Pilot to trade and operate as ethically as possible. Strict recycling and composting protocols are in place to deal with all waste and significant effort was expended in sorting and recycling demolition materials from the Refurb. Wherever possible new fixtures and fittings were made from renewable materials and the use of chemical treatments kept to a minimum.
Café stock is purchased locally and although budgets and availability do not allow for a full range wherever practical the Café’s products are Fairtrade certified. As a ‘Community Café’ the pricing policy is likely to remain a source of concern as a balance between ‘affordability’ and ‘the bottom line’ is sought. The Café strives to provide a decent lunch: a drink, a toastie, and a cake for under £5, and must stay committed to challenging obligatory consumption and expenditure as ‘payment’ for service use. Social interaction must not be monetised.
The Café in Numbers
- Approx 475 Activities Held
- Hg Total Café Surplus: £3250
- 3000 Estimated Participations to Date
- 13 Charitable Partners
- Footfall Jan-Aug: 2574
- 300 Volunteer Hours Logged
- 6 Statutory Collaborations
- Total Hours Open:1882
- Avg. Weekly Staff Cover : 36hrs
- Approx 2000 cups of tea & coffee
- 78 External Events Advertised
- 0 Recorded Accidents