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‘Pay it forward’ restaurant opens on Queensferry Street

ByHeather Dunbar

Nov 1, 2016

Home Restaurant in Queensferry opened 24 September from a partnership between Maison Bleue restaurant and Social Bite charity.

The restaurant is notable for its unique ‘pay it forward’ business model, which encourages customers to pay in advance for homeless individuals. Dean Gassabi of the Maison Bleue chain operates the restaurant along with support from a board made up of Simon Littlejohn, David Wither of the Montpelier Group, and Michelin chef Martin Wishart.

Social Bite’s founder, Josh Littlejohn, the brains behind Home’s business concept, was inspired by the ideas of Muhammad Yunus, a Bangladeshi social entrepreneur and economist who was rated second in Foreign Policy’s list of the top 100 global thinkers.

In particular, according to the Social Bite website, Josh drew inspiration from Yunus’ book, Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism, which suggests an alternative goal for businesses: rather than making money, their profits should be put towards acknowledging and resolving social issues.

Josh owns five Social Bite shops based in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow. The chain has plans to continue growing with a new shop in Glasgow. Despite this expansion, and their goal to grow enough to be capable of “competing with all the big brands like Pret a Manger, EAT, Baguette Express and Greggs” as stated on Social Bite’s website, the organisation claims that “no individual will ever get rich from the business”.

“After staff are paid and costs are covered, every penny of profit is put towards tackling social problems here and abroad.”

The collaboration between Maison Bleue and Social Bite follows the same mission statement as the latter, from its advance paid meals to its allotted service time exclusively for homeless people (from 15:00 to 17:00 every Monday), which the Home website states will create an environment “where they can eat with dignity”.

The dining experience itself draws inspiration largely from Maison Bleue, sharing the restaurant’s fusion of French and traditional Scottish cuisine.

At the opening, guests were given the choice between wild mushroom penne pasta or a venison haunch casserole with Mousseline and cheese mashed potatoes, followed by a berry crumble with ice cream.

The team will present new dishes each week, and Martin Wishart of Home’s supporting board will be acting as a guest chef four times a year along with crafting monthly specials. As Gassabi said in an interview with the BBC: “[He] had already secured these premises for a new Maison Bleue restaurant when Josh came to me with the proposal for Home and it was such a fantastic idea we agreed to go ahead immediately.”

In addition to what they offer in dining experience, Home will also be involving themselves in the community by offering training and employment opportunities for homeless individuals through the Social Bite academy.


Image: Hernan Seoane

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