Blend Kitchen, Sheffield: Yorkshire restaurant and social enterprise announces closure following 'catastrophic drop in footfall'

A Sheffield social enterprise that runs a restaurant providing hospitality training for vulnerable adults has announced it will close as it can no longer sustain itself.

Not-for-profit Blend Kitchen started life in 2016 to give employment and work experience opportunities to anyone affected by disabilities, substance misuse and other conditions excluding them from the workplace. Its staff include homeless people and asylum seekers.

The restaurant began in premises in the city centre, but redevelopment forced Blend Kitchen to relocate to a cafe and new events space at Ward’s Exchange on Ecclesall Road in 2021.

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The social enterprise aimed to become self-sustaining through its day-to-day trade rather than rely on funding grants, but has suffered from ‘catastrophic footfall drops’ since Covid.

Blend Kitchen's second site on Ecclesall Road opened in 2021Blend Kitchen's second site on Ecclesall Road opened in 2021
Blend Kitchen's second site on Ecclesall Road opened in 2021

A statement from Blend Kitchen read: “The pre-pandemic business plan was to build on what we had and widen our reach across the city via external private catering. The impact of Covid on the hospitality sector, increased competition for funding, closely followed by a cost-of-living crisis created a perfect storm for Blend Kitchen in terms of our ability to deliver the ambitions of our business plan.

"Footfall catastrophically dropped during this time and it did not return anywhere near pre-pandemic levels even after restrictions were lifted. Office workers did not return to the area surrounding the café, and the utilities at the site severely increased in cost. Additionally, the area did not develop as expected, leaving the business surrounded by empty units.

"In response to these difficulties, the trustees chose to focus on growing the private catering side of the business. They also downsized the workforce and relied more on volunteers to decrease staff costs, as well as seeking pro-bono services where possible.

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"However, the decrease in funding available and increase in applicants for this funding, meant the company had far lower than projected income. It became clear that the decreased income from grants and day-to-day trading in combination with higher costs meant the business was no longer viable and the trustees took the difficult decision to liquidate the CIC.”

A coffee morning at Blend KitchenA coffee morning at Blend Kitchen
A coffee morning at Blend Kitchen

Trustee Gareth Jones added: “Our aim as a social enterprise was simple yet ambitious, to support and change the lives of some of the city’s most vulnerable and disenfranchised people. For many, Blend Kitchen was their first experience of training and paid employment, giving many a more positive future, but unfortunately Blend Kitchen’s journey has come to an end.

"It feels really sad, but we can look back and be very proud of the home where ‘good food does good’.

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