Social Bite is a sandwich shop with a difference. Their profits go to charity and 25% of their employees were previously homeless people. The founders and staff care: they care about society, about working hard to help others, and they care about the quality of their food. And they should. A desire to support a good cause won't draw people back to the shop for lunch if the food isn't up to scratch. I visited Social Bite on a sunny October afternoon to find out more about how they work, and to try their lunch menu.
It was one o' clock when I arrived at the small but nice-looking shop on Rose Street. Rose Street's busy, right in the middle of Edinburgh's main shopping area. Social Bite was busy too, people from local businesses, tourists, and students looking for lunch, a cross-section of Edinburgh humanity that you don't always see in one place.
Good Food, Good Cause
I met with Alan Mahon in Social Bite on Rose Street to talk about the company’s ambitions over lunch. I arrived hungry, a good decision as it turned out. Social Bite has recently changed the menu. They aim to compete with the big-name high street sandwich places, like Pret a Manger and Eat. To this end, they’ve worked with Mike Mathieson, Michelin starred chef and consultant to Michel Roux, to design a fresh and tasty menu. It’s varied, interesting, and made on the premises.
The pulled pork wrap was great but I was particularly impressed with the avocado wrap, a favourite with their customers as well as me. I tried the ploughman’s sandwich with some trepidation: I’m not a fan of cheese sandwiches or the vinegar-spiked pickle they’re usually filled with. I needn’t have worried: strong mature cheddar was supported by a sweet pear chutney that was rich, not overpowering. I really enjoyed it.
It wasn’t all about sandwiches. The soups of the day were pea and ham and mushroom and thyme. Both looked great and I dove into the mushroom soup with gusto. It was perfect. Smooth, warm, with a deep mushroom flavour. It was a soup that wraps itself around you and gives you a hug. To end my meal, I had a caffe latte.
Before leaving, I perused what else was on the menu. There’s a lot of interesting sandwiches, salads, wraps and even noodles on offer. I was sent home with a falafel salad, with humus, feta, olives and green leaves. There’s also a vegan falafel wrap which I was happy to see, and a pastrami sandwich that looked really good.
Social Bite is an ambitious business that plans to grow. Their ultimate goal is to have hundreds of shops across Britain, donating millions of pounds to worthy causes. It will take time and hard work to get there, but the growth is starting now. Before the end of the year, Social Bite will have a new shop on Shandwick Place in Edinburgh, and another one in Glasgow.
With every shop, more previous homeless people will get work, training and experience that helps them stay out of the no-address-no-job-no-job-no-home cycle. Homelessness is one of the causes that Social Bite support in this country, through their employment policy and donations to Shelter. Other causes are Grameen eye care hospital in Bangladesh and the Microloan Foundation in Malawi and Zambia.
Social Bite offers ‘suspended coffee‘, a scheme that lets visitors buy a coffee, or anything else from the menu, and defer its consumption to someone else. It’s a way of giving food and hot drinks to people who need them but can’t afford them.
Lovely little cafe in central Edinburgh. Support the local community by doing free meals for homeless people and many other great schemes. Many of their employees used to be homeless, not many businesses offer such practical and life changing support. Had a coffee and sausage bap there, very nice.
Breakfast roll is just okay, you can skip this one. Great memories.
Not only is the staff lovely and accommodating (we were there to film a small documentary for college and stayed for lunch after) but they're also working towards a great cause. The food, drink, and service is beyond great and I love the pay it forward scheme they have going. If you're hungry and want to also help out a wonderful cause of trying to end homelessness in Edinburgh then look no further. Do yourself a favour and get the cheese and bean quesadilla it's mind blowing. The latte is gorgeous and my friends loved their food too (meatball panini, bacon sandwich, and tikka and onion bahji sandwich).
Great place to get a hot baked potato and a filling. If you're feeling generous you can buy ahead on stuff too for the homeless. Definitely worth doing.
Amazing place very organised, staff very friendly. I noticed the way they respect the homeless people is amazing. What a great place. A place like Social Bite is a present from gods.
Really love place and staff with managers are nice lovely people. Food is delicious with a nice choice of cold and hot meals. Recommend that place a lot
Good breakfast. Tasty coffee. Nice atmosphere. Friendly staff. Prices are not expensive.
Great place for a quick bite and helping a brilliant charity at the same time. Helping the homeless help themselves!
Happened upon this venue and we had great coffee lovely food and staff fantastic.will definitely return and all for a good cause.
Delicious homemade food, restaurant quality! I work in a restaurant and the soup I tried here was better than a lot I’ve had before! The staff are friendly warm and welcoming! This is a little hidden gem! And to top it off they feed the homeless daily! So come here! Put your money into a company that really cares!