Why ‘Random’ Café? And other questions we often get asked…

Why ‘Random’ Café? Where does the food come from and why? How much should I pay?

I’m hoping I can answer some of these questions here.

Why ‘Random’ Café?

The idea for a waste food café came from a group of friends in Watford who wanted to make a difference both socially, and environmentally for a more sustainable future. We all met through Reason Coffee shop and, from the start had similar views of the world. Once I started researching food waste and what we could do, it was very apparent there is a huge food waste problem globally not just locally. Over a third of all food produced is thrown away for a variety of reasons. Most common is cosmetic!! Think how we would feel if someone called us ugly. A potato is a potato no matter what it looks like. It still mashes, roasts and makes chips. I realised from the start that we would get an eclectic mix of ingredients and produce and when I explained this to my youngest daughter she said “so its going to be really Random”. Random Café was born.

Where does the food come from?

We get food from anywhere that sells or produces food. We currently intercept food from Morrisons, Co-op and Tesco. We also collect food from a local bakery, a local catering company and local food banks. We are now looking at new suppliers and links to intercept and save even more food from going to landfill.

Why? There are too many reasons to list but I will cover the top ones.

Best before dates!! Not to be confused with a ‘use by date’. The crazy world of putting a date on packaging to tell us when the food will not be at its best. 

“The best before date, sometimes shown as BBE (best before end), is about quality and not safety. The food will be safe to eat after this date but may not be at its best. Its flavour and texture might not be as good.” (food.gov.uk)

This means up to this date the food will be the best it can be. We get kilos and kilos of food each week because of best before dates. I’m sure we all can tell which apple is good to eat. 

Damaged packaging!! Some packaging gets knocked about and gets dented or ripped.  We get a lot of dented tins, broken boxes of cereal, unstuck bags of sugar and lots and lots of tea. The inner packaging is often untouched and is still keeping the contents safe.

Open tea box

Over stock or Promotions/Seasonal!! This sounds like three different reasons but all comes down to one – over-ordering or producing. Think of a celebration – Easter, Christmas or Fathers’ day. Supermarkets have to stock enough products to cover the demand of the customer. This is difficult to predict, even more so during seasonal shopping. For example we intercepted lots of these lovely ice cream wafers. A change in the weather meant not many people were thinking about ice cream so these are then in the way. Supermarkets look huge but the warehouse is not as big as you would think (I’ve had a sneaky peek at a few in my time with Random Café.) They want surplus stock out of the way. We can save this surplus and bring it to you either as part of our cafe or in our shop.

Cafe curls

How much should I pay?

As a member of The Real Junk Food Project, http://www.trjfp.com, and with signed agreements with the supermarkets, we cannot charge for the food we collect. We can only offer it for a donation and because of this we don’t have prices for any of the intercepted food. We offer everything at our café on a pay as you feel basis. I know this can be very confusing to anyone who has not come across something like this before.  The idea is to pay in time, money or skills – putting a value on the food and the people. Food is valuable – a lot has happened to bring the produce to the supermarket in the first place. Water, energy, time all have a cost. People have put in time and effort. Farmers getting up early to tend to their crops, grocers collecting and displaying their goods to look the best that they can and keep them as fresh as possible and for us the volunteers who are the life force of Random Café.

Random Café is run completely on volunteers giving their time and skills for free. This may seem like we have no overheads, I wish this were the case.  There is so much going on behind the scenes to bring you the café you see on a Saturday.

When you visit Random Café, or one of the 120+ Junk food project cafes around the country, you are paying for the time of everyone involved. You are also helping to pay for any extra ingredients needed (e.g stock cubes, eggs, milk), energy to cook the food, vehicle costs to collect all the produce and transport it to venues, admin costs for leaflets and accounting etc, insurances for the volunteers and customers safety and venue hire to name but a few. When you add all these costs together you have more of an idea of what it costs to bring Random Café to all.

We love running the cafe and we’re always happy to see new faces aswell as welcome our regular customers and we look forward to seeing you soon at one of our upcoming Cafés 💚

Bring a bag, Bring a friend, Bring a Smile!




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