Outcomes from the Popup Cafe and Lounge and next steps

We had amazing support from the community throughout the popup cafe we ran last December.  Despite the short time scale to set it up, it was a huge success; without doubt the biggest benefit was the engagement and enthusiasm it got from the community. We were able to explain firsthand the plans for the permanent community cafe and lounge but also explain what was going on in the Hub.

Many visitors kindly filled in our survey to get a feel for the support, comments and future demand; more on that below.  Significantly we also managed to test both community café and lounge formats both of which are designed into our planning permission and listed building consent.

Here is a quick summary:

  1. 15 trading days in December, setup in just 1 week beforehand.
  2. 328 sales with total sales of £1608This is phenomenal achievement for a sub-business setup in just a week with limited marketing budget and not on a high street.  Whilst small, this is significant for a new cafe in such a location which we know will take time to build.
  3. About ~150-250 unique customers.
  4. Frequent use of the community lounge which was free to all (there was no need to buy anything whilst the cafe was open).  Non-café users included people using it as a warm space, some for laptop work, others came in with young children as a place to rest.
  5. Significant engagement at the till, including education around what the Hub is and plans to be.
  6. We have taken the lead with a positive narrative and demonstrable vision surrounding the café and lounge, rooting information in reality and dispelling any misinformation that has been circulating around how a Hub cafe would impact the library, building and neighbourhood.
  7. Testing of noise impact, such as that of the coffee grinder and machine.  Successfully passed noise tests in adjacent rooms.
  8. Introduction of lovely informal Edwardian inspired furniture that we’ve been collecting as affordable items become available; making the lounge feel very welcoming.
  9. 85 responses to our survey to poll for comments and the future market.

The results from our survey, anonymised here, and vocal support at the till confirm strong support for a community café and lounge.  To summarise the results in a digestible form:

  • We are satisfied that the survey is statistically meaningful:
    • 85 unique responses collected over 14 days, out of ~200 unique customers; a satisfactory engagement ratio.
    • statistically comfortable spread of ages from age 25-65 (question 4)
    • statistically distributed spread of reasons leading to the survey (question 3)
  • Initially the most likely cafe customers would feed from the Library, Neighbours, Ruskin Park users, but also the Community use as a destination or passing by (this is especially encouraging) (question 5+10)
  • Suggested opening hours from 8:30am till 4pm as a place to start (question 6+7)
  • Indication of what food provision is preferred by the community to start with, namely sandwiches, salads, cakes and snacks (question 9)
  • Sufficient majority interest in community engagement in the form of crowd funding (question 13)

We believe that this data speaks strongly to the demand and potential for a community café and lounge which is helpful affirmation; we have long thought there is a market for this, if done correctly, and see a cafe as central to the makings of a vibrant community hub and library.

As emphasised in person by our team during the popup, we’ve been working hard on this for some time; the cafe is i) legal through planning permission and change of use, ii) permitted in terms of fitting a cafe to a listed heritage building and iii) we have secured some investment and an interested and experienced operator.  The bottleneck continues to be with Lambeth Council who have not granted us the permission to continue the fit out and given us sufficient rights within the building.  We hope these bottlenecks are resolved soon as most of the community we spoke to agreed that the cafe and lounge would be a great facility for the hub and the community.