An untapped workers’ lunch market worth £775m a year could lead to the opening of over 5,538 new catering social enterprises across the UK, creating 38,771 jobs for disadvantaged people, according to new research from ICM published today (27th June) by The Camden Society.
The charity, which already runs six catering outlets through its Unity Kitchen social enterprise chain, has discovered many workers would buy their lunch from similar enterprises if the option were available, and is urging similar organisations to help meet the demand.
Three per cent of workers who currently bring in food from home would instead buy lunch from a catering social enterprise given the choice. With the average worker spending £4.54 each day on lunch, this equates to a potential new market worth over £3.3m every day.
To meet this demand, 5,538 new social enterprises of a similar size to a Unity Kitchen outlet would be needed, creating up to 38,771 jobs in total.
To make this a reality, the charity is calling for: increased support from local and national government for new social enterprises, more charities to set up similar schemes and a commitment from local businesses and workers to use these outlets.
Denise Largin, Chief Executive of The Camden Society and Unity Kitchen, said:
“The public clearly demand more choice for their lunch and want to feed their social conscience as well as their hunger. This news should be welcomed by the whole social enterprise sector.
“We are urging other similar organisations to make the most of this window of opportunity and tap in to this market. Time is ripe for enterprises that can make a valuable and positive contribution to the community while also meeting the appetites of hungry workers.
“Additionally, thanks to the new Public Services Act, the public sector now needs to consider the social value of all its catering suppliers, which bodes well for organisations like ours.
“We hope that by sharing our market research findings we’ll give like-minded organisations the courage to take up this opportunity. This really is a win-win situation for everybody.”
The Unity Kitchen chain uses the funds it generates to provide employment, paid apprenticeships and training opportunities for local people with disabilities, many of whom have never worked before and would otherwise be in receipt of state benefits.
Peter Holbrook, Chief Executive of Social Enterprise UK, said:
“The Camden Society has uncovered interesting findings which will be welcome news to anyone involved with social enterprise and promoting social justice. This research is clear evidence of the current popularity of social enterprises and will provide plenty of food for thought for anybody thinking about expanding into this market.”
Southwark Council already recognizes the social value of organisations like Unity Kitchen, which runs the canteen and in-house catering services in the council’s head office on Tooley Street. Councillor Claire Hickson, cabinet member for Communities and Economic Development said:
“We are pleased to support the Unity Kitchen project at Tooley Street and it has proved to be a really valuable asset. Staff, councillors and visitors use the service regularly and are always treated to a delicious meal. But more importantly the kitchen provides invaluable work opportunities for people with disabilities, creating jobs and benefitting the local economy. I would encourage other organisations to support or set up these schemes in their own area.”
For further information about Unity Kitchen, please visit www.unitykitchen.co.uk