Publicans are being encouraged to host ‘Chatter & Natter’ tables to support those in need of more connection with others.
The Chatty Café scheme is looking for more publicans to offer ‘Chatter & Natter’ tables at their pubs to help support those at risk of loneliness and social isolation in their local areas.
‘Chatter & Natter’ tables offer a space where people can get together and chat, with many of the tables hosted by Chatty Table volunteers.
The scheme has around 900 ‘Chatty Cafes’ around the UK, including around 440 Costa Coffee stores. It has just over 30 pubs signed up but is looking for more publicans to have a dedicated ‘Chatter & Natter’ table.
The Chatty Café was started by founder Alex Hoskyn in 2017 who after sitting in a supermarket café, with her then baby son, observing others sat on their own started thinking about the positive impact people could have on each other if they sat together having a chat, rather than on their own.
A well-established ‘Chatter & Natter’ table can become a regular place for local people to meet each week, simply to get together and chat. There is no agenda or topics to these sessions, they are just about facilitating opportunities for human interaction.
Benefits to pubs joining the scheme can include:
- Increased footfall and repeat business
- The opportunity to attract more customers outside peak hours
- Great promotional exposure on social media, newspaper articles, blogs, etc
- Playing a key role in helping to connecting people in your local area to help tackle loneliness
Many Chatter & Natter tables are hosted by volunteers, who can help promote the sessions within the local area. Venues are offered the opportunity to be matched with a Chatty Table Volunteer/Host, whose role is to be a friendly face at the table and encourage others to join.
Pubs success with Chatty Café Scheme
Among publicans who run successful ‘Chatter & Natter’ tables are family-run pub The Howard Arms at Brampton, Cumbria, who introduced a table in January (22).
Publican Ruth Seggie, who runs this Thwaites tenancy with husband Andrew, offers a ‘Chatty Café Table’ every Monday morning, with 14 people attending and growing.
The pub’s local GPs also supports the pub’s scheme by recommending it to patients who would benefit from some connection and a chat with others, with five people already coming along from this signposting.
Ruth says: “It’s a really nice scheme that helps to highlight that we are more than a pub. Our pub isn’t a place where you have got to buy food or drink, we want to help bring people together and be part of the community. The table is bringing people closer together and less people are feeling alone which is wonderful to see and hear.”
Volunteers driving success
The Howard Arms has a couple of volunteers who host the table, and if they can’t make it then the pub’s team run it.
Ruth says: “The volunteers are vital in helping to organise and chat to people. We are a busy pub and sometimes there isn’t the time to chat to somebody, but the volunteers have the time to chat and can get to know people. Being part of it is also rewarding for the volunteers.”
The pub raises awareness of its ‘Chatty Café’ morning through its table volunteers, on social media, posters in the window and through table talkers. Its ‘Chatty Café’ generally runs for an hour to 1.5 hours, but there is no time limit, with people welcome to stay as long as they like.
Creating positive connections
The table has some people who come every week and some attendees have sparked up friendships which has seen them going off to do other things together, such as attending others local groups or going on outings.
Ruth adds: “I would really recommend the scheme to other publicans. It doesn’t take much effort as is literally setting up a table once a week or however you want to run it. It is lovely to get people in. You get to know people and they come back on their own and have a coffee or lunch.”
Helps position pub at heart of community
At The Local Bar at Branton, near Doncaster, a village micropub with only 25 seats, publicans Laura and Paul Local have been offering a ‘Chatter & Natter’ table for a few months.
It initially ran from 12 noon to 4pm on a Wednesday, with a table set up with a Chatty Café table talker on, but now runs on a Sunday afternoon.
Sowing seeds for flourishing friendships
There is an established group of eight friends, called the ‘chatties’, who connected through the group, who now come to the pub’s weekly quiz night together, meet for other events and outings and have become regular customers.
Laura says: “Initially we asked for volunteers to help come along and be a table host as we can’t always sit and chat if busy. But this has now evolved into a group of people who come along and have a natter, with around six to eight regulars.”
She adds: “From a business perspective I would recommend it as it helps to make people aware of your business and talking about your business doing something positive. There is a very strong sense of community where the pub is, and being involved with schemes like this shows people that we want to be and are part of that community. There is also a nice feeling that you have helped to foster friendships for people, who are enjoying the social interaction from a new group.”
Gateway to other social opportunities
The City Wall in the centre of Rochester, Kent, opened 15 years ago by owner Sanjay Raval, has a dedicated time of Tuesdays between 12 noon and 2pm for ‘Chatter & Natter’, but encourages anyone to pop in for a chat and a coffee anytime.
The bar, which is also registered as a ‘Warm Space’ to help support locals during these challenging times, puts table talkers across the bar, with all tables and spaces free to use, rather than having a dedicated table.
Sarah Wilson, The City Wall’s community lead, says: “A man came in who had seen it advertised on social media and had just lost his wife. We were able to say to him do you know we do live jazz on a Sunday and we do a supper club every Monday and maybe you might like to come along to that? If you can get people through the door then you can let them know what else they can get involved with too.”
Not just for elderly people
She also sees the Chatty Café scheme as something not just to benefit elderly people but also the wide range of people who can find themselves isolated and in a lonely situation. Sarah says: “Stereotypically we often think of elderly people being lonely, but people such as solo parents can also often benefit from a landing point to go for a coffee and a chat.”
Sarah adds: “The Chatty Café, as well as a range of other initiatives we do, such as a homeless charity using our BBQ area to serve food and fundraise and a kids’ Christmas party fundraiser, helps us to be seen positively by people in the local community. Being socially aware as well as commercially aware is really important in these challenging trading times.”
Sign up now
It costs pubs £30 to join the scheme, which includes inclusion on a ‘Chatter & Natter’ venue map and a pack including table talkers, posters, leaflets and window stickers.
For more information see www.thechattycafescheme.co.uk