The School's Out Café
The School’s Out Café is the brainchild of our managing director Kevin.
Whilst out doing the rounds with the Bread Basket and The Food Bank Scheme he learnt that the times of the year that families struggle most to feed their children are school holidays.
The majority of the children in the families we help receive free school meals and school holidays prove a burden to their parents because they have to provide a replacement for that free school meal, which typically was a sandwich.
Often the free school meal was the only hot meal the children got all day, resulting in schools holidays meaning not hot meal at all, not too bad in the summer but during the colder months?
In April 2017 we opened our café under the trading name of Café DinDin for the first time with the support of the Teresa and the management at Osmaston Park Community Centre, who donated the use of the café and main kitchen free of charge. The menu’s were basic, based on kiddies’ and adult’s favourite meals, with prices starting at £1 for the kiddies and during the first week of the café opening we served 97 kiddies main meals and 79 adult main meals plus desserts and hot and cold drinks.
In May 2017 we received a £200 donation from The Asda Foundation which allowed us to change the menus and reduce the price of kiddies’ main meals for the May School Holidays, resulting in an explosion of interest and the number of meals served.
The School’s Out Café 2017
Having seen the success of Café DinDin, The Asda Foundation donated a further £250 and M&S Intu, Derby also donated chilled ready meals, allowing us to once again change the menus and reduce prices whilst giving us an option to rebrand and re-open Café DinDin as The School’s Out Café for the summer holidays and for the future too.
We also introduced a Loyalty Scheme to enable members to receive discounts and free meals at future events and the option to join us for our Teddy Bear Picnic Lunches with ‘celebrity’ guests and a free bouncy castle play, courtesy of Carls Bouncy Castles, Hot Tubs & Disco Domes Hire
The discounts were applicable to our Summer and October café openings.
As the café was getting more and more popular, in the last week that the café was open during the summer holidays Kevin, our managing director, returned home to find an answer phone message saying ‘Put you prices up or well send the boys round’.
Having reported the threat to the police the press soon heard about the story resulting a front page article in The Derby Telegraph and an interview/article on ITV Central News a few days later (click the video to see it all).
Despite the threat, which came to nothing the café remained open. In total during the six weeks the café was open during 2017 we served over 2500 kiddies main course meals and over 1750 adult main course meals plus over 2750 desserts.
Something New - Home Delivery
Whilst the café was becoming busier it was visited mainly by guests living 'close by' and others that lived further away that had their own transport.
However, we found a solution, and thanks to a group of volunteers, lead by Louise, we decided to deliver our low cost/free meals to anywhere in Derby for just £2 per order, irrelevant of the size of the order. (The £2.00 charge was to cover our volunteers fuel costs).
The delivery service proved to an over whelming success with over 200 meals being delivered during the week.
One mum stated
"I had heard about the café but to take six kiddies and myself on a bus was too expensive. The delivery service allowed me to give my kids a meal each and a meal for myself and the total cost was a tenner (£10). A bargain and the food was awesome.
If we had gone there on the bus it would have cost me another £12, so the cheap food wouldn't have been so cheap".
The School’s Out Café 2018
In 2018 we applied for and received £1000 funding from The Asda Foundation which allowed us to totally restructure the way the café operated. Due to the funding from The Asda Foundation we were able to offer ‘random draw discount vouchers’, which ranged from 25% off our published prices to Free Meals for everyone in the family group, for the whole of the opening times during 2018 and February 2019. In addition we were able to review and expand the menus and offered 40 kiddies main course meals for just £1 each, plus more at £1.25 each or two courses for £1.50. The adult menu offered main course meals from just £1.50 or two courses for just £2.00, plus we could now offer daily specials from £1.25 each.
As a treat in the last week of opening during the summer holidays we took our guests on a culinary trip around the world, serving free food from India, Italy, The Far East, The United States and British Classics. In total 1871 items were served in the 5 days.
From March 2018 to February 2019 we served 4786 main course meals plus desserts, excluding the ‘Around the World trip’ items, add them in and we served 6657 meals plus desserts.
The School’s Out Café -2019
Due to the success of the £1 meal for kiddies scheme many other food outlets, including major supermarkets and ‘franchised worldwide businesses’ saw what we had done and changed their pricing during the school holidays, “now you could go for burger and fries or breakfast for just £1.00 each”.
However, our major advantage we have over all the other food outlets in Derby is the superb playground and expansive spaces at Osmaston Park allowing families to meet up, allow the kiddies ‘let off steam’ then come to us for something to eat, then go and play plus we have the totally secure garden area within the community centre, for picnics and for child minders to bring the kiddies ‘they are responsible for’. Alternatively the centre’s main hall was available if the weather isn’t so kind.
For 2019 we introduced a new membership scheme. The cost, £1 per kiddie and £2 per adult with membership entitling every ‘kiddie’ member, accompanied by a ‘relevant’ adult member, to a free main course meal every day the café was open, and the ‘relevant’ adult would receive a 50% discount on prices of our standard menu.
Membership would be open to any one qualifying and be available until February 2020.
The membership scheme generated £301 and with a anonymous donation of £100 we converted £1401 into 4813 main course meals and we served 1279 desserts.
Putting that statement into perspective 2555 kiddie meals were provided ‘free of charge’ to ensure they got a hot meal during the school holidays. The numbers may not be as high as the previous year because we were forced to close for two of the five weeks during the summer holidays due to travellers occupying the park but the closure was not our choice.
The School’s Out Café 2020
2020 saw the café re-open in February for five days, during which time we served 216 free kiddies main course meals, 108 'half price or less' adult main course meals, 18 breakfasts and 198 desserts.
Sadly due to the COVID-19 epidemic this was the last time we were able to open the café this year and for the foreseeable future the café will remain closed.
The Future of the School’s Out Café
As can be seen from above the café has proven to be a big success. In the three years of being open (albeit a very short 2020 season) we have served over 16,000 main course meals, breakfasts and desserts. We have 'given away over 4000 meals plus we have saved parents over £10,000 in holiday food costs.
Once COVID-19 has gone we will re-open at Osmaston Park and we are seeking 'satellite sites to expand the model around Derby.
Long term we want the concept to become nationwide, but there's a lot of work to do to make that happen.