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Second Social Bite store opens in Glasgow to help homeless

Second Social Bite store opens in Glasgow to help homeless

Six months ago, Brian Rogers was stuck at home, desperately trying to secure a job while staying on the straight and narrow.

But with a past blighted by time in prison, alcohol addiction and periods of homelessness split between Glasgow hostels, the 29-year-old spent four years struggling to find work.

Now, he's helping to launch Glasgow's second Social Bite store which opens tomorrow on Bothwell Street.

While its shelves and counters may be stocked with tasty treats that include spicy felafel wraps, gooey chocolate and pecan brownies and fair trade Rwandan coffee, this isn't your average sandwich and coffee shop.

  (Sir Tom Hunter, Brian Rogers and Josh Littlejohn outside Social Bite.)
via STV via STV

With a slogan that simply states Good Food for a Good Cause, Social Bite also serves up a healthy dose of charitable donations, feel good vibes and second chances.

It donates 100% of its profits to charities in Scotland and throughout the world, and at least one in four of its staff comes from a homeless background.

Social Bite also runs a suspended food and coffee scheme that allows customers to pre-pay for food and drink which can later be claimed by a homeless person.

  (Social Bite provides meals for local homeless with suspended coffee scheme.)
via STV via STV

Through the generosity of its customers, Social Bite now feeds up to 30 local homeless people every day at each shop.

The innovative social enterprise was founded two years ago by Josh Littlejohn, 27, and Alice Thompson, 23 in Edinburgh, which is now home to two popular Social Bite shops.

Since opening on St Vincent Street in March, Social Bite's first Glasgow venture has quickly won over Glaswegian's hearts and appetites.

Co-founder Josh Littlejohn said: "We're really excited to be opening our fourth shop.

"Glasgow is a very socially conscious city and people have really warmed to the idea and are really supportive."

  (Social Bite backer Tom Hunter and with ex-homeless employee Brian Rogers)
via STV via STV

Social Bite's owners take a salary but abide by the social business rule that the person at the top of the organisation is never allowed to earn higher than seven times that of the lowest paid employee.

The company employs 12 members of staff who have been homeless at one point in their lives. As part of their employment with the social enterprise they are given help to find accommodation, given an income and support to help them lift themselves out of poverty.

The opening of the shop is a proud moment for Brian, who has been training as a kitchen porter in Social Bite's St Vincent Street shop since May.

After being released from prison, Brian found it extremely difficult to secure a job. Stints in hostels between 2007 and 2008 exacerbated his addiction to alcohol but joining social enterprise Street Soccer Scotland set him on a path to recovery.

Five months ago, he heard through a friend on his football team about a small chain of sandwich shops that was also in the business of serving up second chances. Now he's been given a chance to start over in his first ever job.

  (Brian Rogers, kitchen porter at Glasgow's Social Bite.)
via STV via STV

He said: "It's an amazing opportunity. I never thought I’d get a job and have money.

"The suspended meal scheme is brilliant. I wish there'd been something like this when I was homeless.

"There’s a boy I know from Street Soccer who's on the streets and I encourage him to come in for it.

"I go to AA meetings every week and am looking forward to building a new life for myself."

At the end of the working day there are plans to open the space up to local homeless people for counselling sessions and a soup kitchen.

But Social Bite has carved out a reputation that goes beyond the social good it does. It's won over patrons by offering delicious food made in store and consciously sourced coffee from around the world.

  (Sir Tom Hunter and Brian Rogers inside Social Bite.)
via STV via STV

The admirable work of the pioneering chain has also drawn the attention of Sir Tom Hunter, who recently invested £200,000 in the business through The Hunter Foundation.

Sir Tom said: "We were really impressed by Josh's passion and the social side to a business that doesn't compromise on quality of product or service but is still about so much more than profit.

"Our eyes have been truly opened to what could be achieved through this approach and we're now looking to make more investments in this area through the foundation."

  (Social Bite on St Vincent Street, Glasgow.)
via STV via STV

Josh says this generous funding boost will allow Social Bite to improve both its product and business model, and put them on course to expand the chain north to Aberdeen and Dundee.

He added: "To get backing and support from a prestigious businessman and entrepreneur like Sir Tom Hunter should give the whole thing a lift.

"We want to keep expanding relatively quickly and potentially might be looking at opening in Aberdeen before the new year."

Social Bite will be open on Bothwell Street from tomorrow and will serve from 6am - 8pm Monday to Saturday.

You can also buy a homeless person a soup and sandwich from any Social Bite shop in Glasgow or Edinburgh for £4.50 with this Itison deal.

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