Grantham Journal Big Interview: A year of successes for Café Rainbow

Winners: Cafe Rainbow.
Winners: Cafe Rainbow.
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Despite only opening in April 2014, Café Rainbow at Grantham Tennis Club has already been a huge success, and was named the Best Not for Profit/Social Enterprise at the Grantham Journal Business Awards.

Run by Mencap, the café provides work experience to those with learning disabilities. Manager Julie Doughty told us more.

How did you feel to win the award?

Really, really pleased. For a long time Judith Burnett, Grantham & District Mencap Ltd chairperson, has believed that people with a learning disability should be engaged in paid employment and wanted to set up a café to achieve this. So she was extremely pleased we won the award, especially so near to our one year anniversary.

It meant a lot to the café staff, who have worked extremely hard since the opening last April working alongside the people with a learning disability, watching them gain confidence and work skills, and, seeing the café become successful.

What opportunities does Café Rainbow provide for those with learning difficulties?

We offer valuable work experience in a supportive and realistic environment, giving training with regards to kitchen work (basic knife skills, food safety, basic food preparation and cooking and using a dishwasher), and front of house (customer service, preparation of hot and cold drinks, clearing and cleaning tables). Volunteers are expected to work weekends and bank holidays just as you would normally. We work very closely with external agencies to ensure they get the best possible support and progression onto further work experience or paid employment.

How many people are involved?

We have 16 permanent volunteers working on our rota and we have supported an additional 10 through work experience from local schools, Grantham College, training agencies and the Job Centre.

How have you found being part of Grantham Tennis Club and what response do you get from visitors?

Grantham Tennis Club invited us to develop our café in their new refurbishment two years ago when the redevelopment was still in the planning stage. Staff and members of the Tennis Club have been really supportive of the café and the volunteers and the café is fully involved in all the social activities the club have.

You mentioned at the awards that one of your volunteers has recently secured a full-time job - can you give anymore details about this?

The volunteer had been with us for approximately four months, referred to us through a training agency and is now working locally as an apprentice catering assistant.

* Café Rainbow is open seven days a week and is open to the public.