Fresh eyes for a new initiative to support communities and talent.

How a theatre producer has been inspired to help communities in real need.

The industry has a long history of attracting many great talents from the world of theatre and the arts to help challenge and evolve the way it thinks.

One of the latest is Rachel Edwards, founder of The Tooting Arts Club and former Artistic Director of The Boulevard Theatre on Soho. She is now founding a new concept called “Roundtable Restaurants” which aims to make a difference and provide solutions for both food insecurity and the industry’s staffing crisis. It arguably comes at a very important moment. It is an ambitious project.

“Whilst I was in NYC I volunteered at a soup kitchen on 14th Street,” recalled Rachel as she explained how the concept took root. “ It was a bitterly cold winter and I remember vividly how vital this service was for survival, this one meal a day was quite literally the difference between life and death for some of the patrons, it was a humbling and life-changing experience“

“The pandemic, for me, and for a lot of people have been a time for reflection and has been an opportunity for me to re-calibrate and get back in touch with what truly drives me. During the last 18 months, I have volunteered at the local foodbank, I have helped deliver food parcels to the vulnerable and I have become increasingly alarmed by how much these services were in demand. As lockdown took hold, many families found themselves facing an unfamiliar plight: food insecurity or, even worse, the lack of means to buy food altogether.”

Round Table will aim to become short or longterm tenants of unoccupied restaurant sites in the UK, collaborating with landlords and leaseholders of empty restaurants setting-up Round Table restaurant sites for a minimum of 1-2 years. Benefits for like-minded landlords and leaseholders will include maintenance of the property, security and business rates relief, not to mention some healthy PR… In the daytime, Round Table’s aim is to combine a free (or pay-what-you-can) community restaurant for those affected by food poverty and insecurity, as well as providing a robust in-house training programme providing a solid start for new talent in the hospitality industry.

In the evening, Round Table will operate as a traditional restaurant service, so in addition to its charitable focus, the aim is that Round Table restaurants will become leading destinations for food and drink in their own right, offering fantastic food and drink, prepared and served by talented kitchen and front-of-house staff with all profits re-invested to support the charitable daytime activities

Round Table’s restaurants will make use of a workforce rooted in their communities, empowering local people through both employment, education and upskilling, and empowering local businesses through the creation of hyper-local supply chains.

“As hospitality venues, Round Table’s restaurants will also play their part in rejuvenating areas of London and the UK in an inclusive and equitable way, eventually becoming vital community hubs and cornerstones of their local community, “ noted Rachel. “ With community, inclusivity and great food and drink at its heart, my hope is that Round Table will provide a more equitable model for both restaurant dining and charitable fundraising, providing everyone with a seat at the table”

EP is delighted to be supporting this new initiative which comes at such a testing time.

Rachel Edwards