Tables in selected cafes will be designated for customers to share a conversation, with the aim of ‘helping to bridge the loneliness gap by bringing people together’.
The project has been developed in close association with the Chatty Café Scheme – which was founded by Alex Hoskyn, who came up with the idea whilst in a Sainsbury’s café.
Talking Tables will be trialled in 20 stores in various formats from simple sign-posted tables in cafés in-store, to a variation where the supermarket chain’s staff volunteer to host a table, and a charity-led format where stores will partner with community groups and work with their volunteers to host scheduled sessions.
Sainsbury’s will also try out the programme internally with staff by setting up Talking Tables in back-of-house areas in stores, depots and store support centres.
Judith Batchelar, director of Sainsbury’s Brand said: “We know from our latest Living Well Index [developed in partnership with researchers Oxford Economics and the National Centre for Social Research] that community connections are a key driver of helping people to live well.
“Yet with almost two-thirds of us feeling lonely some of the time, it’s important that we contribute to helping improve the lives of our customers and communities. We hope that by bringing people together at our Talking Tables, we can utilise the potential of our store-space to help people be better connected to the communities they live and work in.”
The Index sheds light on those most at risk of feeling socially isolated, which includes young mothers, young single men, single people living alone with health problems, and out-of-work individuals who are living with others.
The initiative will be trialled at these stores from October to December:
Stores in the Midlands: Redditch, Canley, Dorridge, Northfield, Longbridge
Stores in the south-west: Barnstaple, Newquay, Penzance, Truro, Falmouth
Stores in the north-east: Monks Cross, Hull, Scarborough, Bishop Auckland, Sedgefield
Stores in south Wales/Gloucester: Swansea, Pontllanfraith, Cwmbran, Newport, Tewkesbury Road