Sam Harris is a deep thinker. His Waking Up podcast has become a regular go-to place for me when I’m doing a long drive. And it was there I listened to Johann Hari talking about his new book, Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions. The title says it all. When people feel connected, their depression often eases and mental health improves.
This got me thinking and I started noticing how many coffee shop tables had just one occupant. Yes, many of these people are pretty much hot-desking, using the wifi to work. But many people aren’t. Mums with small babies, older people reading.
Loneliness knows no boundaries. We all assume these people are happy with their solitude but, what if they’re not? What if they’re simply seeking the company of others to help them through their day?
Which led me to a thought. What if there were designated tables where people would sit if they were up for a chat? So I started the research and quickly discovered that there’s already a movement for this exact thing.
Meet Alexandra Hoskyn. Back in 2017, she noticed exactly the same, decided to do something about it, and launched the Chatty Cafe scheme. A simple idea. Alex asked cafes to pop a sign on a table saying “The seats on this table are for anyone happy to chat to other customers”.And that’s all it took. Independent cafes started signing up. It's a total win/win. Encouraging more customers and providing a valuable service.
And the big chains like the idea too, with Sainsbury’s launching “Talking Tables” and Costa with “Chatter and Natter” tables.
For a membership of just £10 a year, cafes receive a very lovingly put together box which contains an a4 plastic table sign, poster insert, leaflets, door/window sticker, and an A4 and A3 poster. The venue is listed on the Chatty Cafe website and publicized on social media.
So, why not suggest your favorite cafe becomes part of the scheme? It's easy to do, it benefits everyone. I can't find a single reason for not doing it.
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