Craig Johnson, founder of Launch Foods CIC
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New Glasgow café on a mission to help feed city’s kids

A new lunch spot has opened its doors in the heart of Glasgow’s international financial services district, with every coffee or sandwich purchase helping towards free after-school meals for hungry primary school children.

Launch Café is located at 99 Bothwell Street and will open from 8am – 4pm, Monday – Friday, serving a range of hot drinks, snacks, sandwiches, wraps, salads and other refreshments. Simply buying one coffee will provide a hot meal, bottled water and fruit for a child in the city.

The social enterprise is the latest venture from Craig Johnson, who started Launch Foods in 2018 to divert surplus food, from some of Scotland’s biggest food and drink companies such as Highland Spring, Brakes Scotland and butcher Simon Howie, to feed children in need of nutritious meals outside of school hours. The charity has so far provided more than a quarter of a million free meals to children in the city, with the new café set to boost those numbers in the months ahead.

Ahead of the opening, Launch Foods received a £40,000 funding boost from Social Investment Scotland to purchase essential catering equipment such as coffee machines and support the recruitment of a new team, as well as being helped by HFD Group and other partners with the fit out of the café to get the space ready to welcome its first customers.

Craig Johnson said: “This retail unit was secured just prior to the pandemic, which was unlucky timing but our landlord has been nothing but supportive. It’s great to finally have the doors open and our first cups of coffee sold. It’s a fantastic location in the heart of Glasgow’s business district and I thought it would be a great place to catch the morning commuter rush, office staff on their lunch breaks, and even the workers on the various construction sites nearby.

“We promise to take care of our customers by providing great coffee, great food and served with a genuine smile. I want people to know that every time they buy from Launch Coffee they are also helping to make an impact on the lives of local people. Making the café a success will allow our free food service to continue. At the moment, we’re making and serving about 300 meals per day, but with the cost of living going up, there’s only going to be more families needing our support.”

“A lot of generous folks have already stepped up to help get the café ready to open and have gone beyond expectations to do what they can to support me. That kindness goes a long way and I will always be grateful for the help. It can be quite a lonely journey as a social entrepreneur and it is great to be able to share my ‘why’ with people who I come into contact with – particularly our new customers.”

Chris Jamieson, head of investments at Social Investment Scotland, said: “Through Launch Foods Craig has been making a big impact in many Glasgow communities where families are struggling and children sadly go hungry. Until now, Launch has relied on grants, donations and volunteers but the new café represents an important opportunity to generate additional income and, in turn, deliver an even bigger impact for those who need it most.”

The fit-out of the café was largely completed by tradespeople involved in the construction of neighbouring 177 Bothwell Street, who offered their skills, time and materials to help bring the unit to life. Bringing significant footfall to the area, occupiers of what is set to be Glasgow’s largest office building include Virgin Money, BNP Paribas, AECOM, CBRE, Transport Scotland and HFD Group, the developers of the building.

Stephen Lewis, managing director of HFD Property Group, added: “We had been connected with Craig and Launch Foods for some time through the HFD Charitable Foundation, but as soon as we realised that the new café would be opening on the same street as our flagship development, we knew there would be more we could offer in terms of practical support. We’re so pleased to see the café up and running in time for the new occupiers moving into 177 Bothwell Street, including HFD itself, and we will be encouraging staff to visit as much as they can to get behind such a fantastic cause.”