Social enterprise creates 10 new jobs and 100 training placements
A Belfast social enterprise that uses its profits to support people with barriers to employment and learning into the workforce has redeveloped a burnt-out bar in West Belfast into a café and bakery, creating 10 jobs and up to 100 training placements for catering trainees with learning difficulties.
Loaf, which runs a successful outside catering and café business in the greater Belfast area, officially opens its new outlet tomorrow (June 17th) on the former site of the Oak Bar directly across from the entrance to the Royal Victoria Hospital on West Belfast’s Grosvenor Road.
Loaf’s profits are reinvested back into the work of its parent organisation NOW Group, the Northern Ireland Social Enterprise of the Year that works to support people with barriers to employment and learning into the workforce across NI. NOW Group operates an accredited training and supported employment programme that works alongside Loaf’s businesses enabling people with learning difficulties to gain training and work experience in Loaf’s café kitchens.
The Grosvenor Road café and bakery is the latest success for the social enterprise in which is a vocal campaigner for the ‘Buysocial’ ethos – encouraging public / private sector business and the public alike to do business with social enterprise services that use profit for good work. In the past 18 months, Loaf has competed against private sector business to win a number of lucrative catering tenders and catering contracts, including one with the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA) and the management of the Bobbin Café in Belfast City Hall.
Speaking at the café and bakery’s official launch on Tuesday, Minister for Social Development, Mervyn Storey MLA, said: “This is an exciting and innovative approach by NOW Group and clearly demonstrates how social enterprises contribute to local communities by creating opportunities within their local areas. The funding contribution of £60,000 by my Department from the Neighbourhood Renewal Programme has contributed to this very worthwhile project.
The Minister added: “NOW Group’s Loaf social enterprise has regenerated a building that has been derelict for some time, through training and coaching it will create jobs for people who find it hardest to get employment and it will contribute to the economic health of the local area. I wish the staff and those who avail of the Café and Bakery every success.”
Maeve Monaghan, Chief Executive of NOW Group, said the development has been “a long time coming for Loaf”.
“We bought the Oak Bar back in March 2014 and hoped the redevelopment would be fully-funded,” she said.
“However, we’ve secured loan finance and used our own monies to turn this around. The building was in such poor repair we ended up doing a lot more work than planned so we were grateful to have received additional capital investment from the Department for Social Development and £5,000 of crowd funding back in December when we featured alongside three other local charities in a Dragon’s Den crowd funding event at Belfast City Hall, which was organised by Giving Northern Ireland and the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland under the umbrella of The Funding Network.
“There’s been tremendous goodwill from all quarters towards us to push this development through to completion as this isn’t just another café and bakery – this business is socially invested in the area in which it’s based. Our aim was to regenerate a vacant, burnt-out space in one of the most marginalised parts of the city and turn it back into a thriving business that contributes to the heart of this community. The building was the site of a thriving, family-owned Oak Bar that was popular with local people and NOW Group want to continue that with this café and bakery.
“We’re providing jobs and training opportunities for local people and for NOW Group’s catering trainees with learning difficulties, but we also want local people and community groups to see it as their space too. We want to link-in with the Royal Victoria Hospital and offer the café as a safe, welcoming space for people to get a coffee, charge their phones and access Wifi.”
West Belfast MP, Paul Maskey, said Loaf Catering was a “shining example of the positive work social enterprises carry out in local communities across the country”.
“I want to congratulate NOW Group for taking the risk in purchasing this site and developing it into what we see today, which will be a thriving business in the heart of West Belfast,” said Mr Maskey.
“It was a disused and vacant site that for the past lot of years so it is really great to see it regenerated and turned into what will be a busy social enterprise on the Grosvenor Road. This is an important day in the regeneration of this area and I know local residents are glad to see it here.
“I want to particularly praise NOW for showing great vision in opening this new café and bakery and bringing much-needed jobs and training opportunities to the area. I know local people are going to support it and staff and visitors to the Royal Victoria Hospital just over the road from it will no doubt support it too.”
Loaf’s success is a sign of a growing trend across both the public and private sector to do more business with social enterprises and incorporate them into supply chains, a trend Maeve is eager to see continue.
“We’re a social enterprise and use our profits to support the work of NOW Group, but like any hospitality business, our first priority is to deliver a great product and make money,” she continued.
“It’s what we do with that profit that makes us different. Loaf serves and delivers fresh, tasty food across the city and we work hard to ensure our supply chain includes as many local producers and social enterprises as possible. It’s vital that people like our product first then realise that their money is also making a real impact locally.”
Loaf Café and Bakery is situated at 307 Grosvenor Road, Belfast, and is open Monday to Friday from 8am to 4pm, and Saturdays from 9am to 3pm.
For more information on Loaf, visit www.loafcatering.com, or follow them on