Eat Out With...The Breakfast Club

Eat Out With...The Breakfast Club
27/05/2017 - 08:00
Do well by doing good. That’s the motto of The Breakfast Club (TBC) and while they are almost certainly too modest to say so themselves, the 10-site all-day eatery appears to be doing just that. Maria Bracken met up with Eva Arnaiz, charities and communities manager, and founder Jonathan Arana-Morton to find out more about the business model.

The success of TBC’s charity programme, called Good Day Productions, did not happen overnight. Initially, like many businesses, they supported one charity financially.

Eva Arnaiz, a waiter in the Hoxton café at the time, started questioning this approach. She persuaded TBC’s founders that including staff in the decision on which charities to back and using their skills to support the work of the chosen organisations would be a much more effective model.

Arnaiz now coordinates the programme fulltime, liaising regularly with staff and the charities. They now work with a network with at least one charity near each café – to ensure that both parties are getting the maximum benefit. This involves establishing up front what exactly it is that TBC volunteers can most usefully do and match those as well as possible with staff members.

Eva, charities and communities manager

What's your background?

I started working here part time in the cafe just over four years ago. I left for six months, went travelling and came back again and then left to teach English for six months. But something kept on bringing me back to hospitality.

What was that?

It is a fun environment to work in. It has a real family feel here. Management are really open to letting people explore new ideas in the business, which is fantastic. For example, Hayley Simpson, who is our creative manager, started off waitressing. Now she's in a managerial role. One of our other employees, Tim Nunn, started on the floor, the same as me, and now designs our restaurants.

Tell us about some of the charity work you do?

Our charity work all started with Magic Breakfast. When teaching in a school in Wembley, I had noticed that there were a lot of kids coming to school without having eaten.  Cuts to benefits meant families were finding it hard to put food on the table.

So, we thought it was a nice tie in, given that they offered breakfast and we are called the Breakfast Club. So we started working with them three years ago. They were our Hoxton cafe charity at the time (we don't work with this charity anymore).

We then started working with Create, an arts-based charity. It brings creative arts projects to vulnerable people in society. They work with people with severe disabilities, carers, the homeless and the elderly with dementia.

We also work with Opening Doors. It is a branch of Age UK Camden, focusing on the older LGBT Committee. We host get togethers in our Battersea cafe, offering safe spaces.  Other charities include Spitalfields Crypt Trust, where we cook breakfast for the homeless every Thursday as well as Leaders in Community, where we empower young adults in Poplar, delivering arts-based and food workshops. We also have a new partnership with Women for Refugee Women where we will be delivering arts-based workshops.

How do these charities work then?

We find out the charity's needs first. This is paramount. I will then do what I can to meet them. We pay our staff to volunteer. We want to be able to support our staff.  So we pay them the London Living Wage to volunteer. We have now built up a network of contacts.

As a business, does it take up a lot of your time?

I am full time, which is quite unusual for a business of our size. But what I have established is we have 10 sites and 350 members of staff. We constantly have new opportunities coming in as well as new members of staff working with other groups in society. The opportunities are open to everyone and we say as long as you can continue with your commitments in the cafe, and that they are well staffed, you can volunteer as much as you like. What I have found is there is a core group of volunteers who want to get involved. And for some of them, they want to go into the voluntary sector. Most of the skills they are learning are transferable. Empathy is so important in hospitality. People are also more proud to work for a business that takes care and cares about each other.

Do you think the restaurant industry is doing enough in terms of charity?

I think for some reason there seems to be a competitive nature in working with charities, which I think is a real shame. I think restaurants could learn a lot from each other. Restaurants give a lot of money, but actually what we have found is giving your time is invaluable. We have so many skilled staff who work here, whether that be in the kitchen or on the floor. Every time our green juice is sold, £1.50 gets put into my Good Day pot and all of the profit from merchandise gets put into the pot. We need to be able to fund at least 100 hours a month of paid staff for volunteering. Last year we were averaging at around 200 hours a month in volunteering. In terms of money, that's a lot.

Other hospitality businesses are doing some great things, however something as simple as using your space for vulnerable people to meet is so effective. Saying that you are a safe space to people is really important.

What are your plans with the charity work going forward?

It's about how we communicate with people. We would like to be doing things in cafes where members of the public are also getting involved. We have started working with Cause Corps. It is run by a group of volunteers who want to make good deeds part of every day life.

We also do a charitable challenge. Last year's one was five marathons in five days. There were 32 of us. We raised over £55,000 for charity. We are forever changing to meet the needs of our charities. The needs of our charities is the most important thing. It's all about relationships. Communication and honesty is key.

Jonathan  Arana-Morton - Founder

Tell me about the food offering

It's simple, comfort food. All of the cafes apart from Soho have a limited cocktail offering, plus wines and craft beers. We also have a coffee offering. One thing we knew we had to get right was the drinks, especially the coffee. Coffee is a huge priority for us. I hold our coffees up against most independents. We are very proud of how well we do it.  It's a big focus for us. You can't get it wrong anymore.

What makes you so popular?

We try hard not to be trendy. We didn't want somewhere to be too cool for people. We are in enough different locations to know that it's not just people from Shoreditch who come to us. It's also people from the city. If you try and be cool, you go out of fashion. We've always tried to build stories around what we do.

Was the vision always to get to 10 sites?

No, we didn't have a plan back then and we don't have a plan now, to be honest. Everyone talks about having business plans and strategies etc, but we never had this big vision. There was no master plan. We do want to grow and think we are a good business and good to the people we employ. As and when we can afford to, we will expand.

What are the challenges for TBC?

It's been fairly challenging. What you tend to find is good buisnesses see it out and become better businesses as a result of it. It's such a wonderful industry and employs some amazing people.

Although, sometimes it feels like we get overlooked as an industry. I'm not sure why. People want independents on the high street, but at the same time it's only high street chains that can afford to be there because of the business rates. But at the same time, I don't want to knock the high street chains as I think the work they do is wonderful. But if you want to keep the heart and soul of some of the high streets, you have to make it affordable for the independents.

Delivery is another interesting topic for the industry, but at the same time, I do think it is something we all need to be careful of.  People like to eat out, let's not lose this through delivery and allowing people to stay at home to eat. After all, it's all about the experience.

Which other operators do you admire?

If I was to have my last meal anywhere it would be Nando's. Pizza Pilgrims are doing good stuff and I also like what MeatLiquor are doing at the minute.

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