Social Bite: The Sandwich Chain Taking a Bite Out of Homelessness


What is Social Bite?

Social Bite is a growing chain of sandwich shops based out of Scotland, founded by social entrepreneurs, Josh Littlejohn and Alice Thompson. The two founders were inspired by the work and writings of Nobel Peace Prize winning economist, Professor Muhammad Yunus. After reading his book titled “Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and The Future of Capitalism,” the two flew to Dhaka, Bangladesh to meet with Professor Yunus. After seeing Yunus’s business’s in action and the social challenges they were addressing, the pair set out to create their own social enterprise. They sold their events business and started Social Bite in 2012. They now have five locations based in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, with a central production shop in Livingston.

How Does it Work?

Aside from being a popular sandwich shop, Social Bite’s main focus is alleviating homelessness and poverty. There are several ways they are approaching these challenges. First, they provide employment to the local homeless in the Social Bite sandwich shops. A quarter of their employees are former homeless people. Social Bite also feed around 150 homeless people every day. This is done through a pay it forward program sponsored by their regular patrons which allow them to pre-pay meals for the homeless. The pay it forward program has been so successful that they never have to turn a hungry homeless person away.

The Social Bite Academy

In an effort to reverse the trend of homelessness in their area, Littlejohn and Thompson created The Social Bite Academy. The Social Bite Academy is a support program that helps homeless people become a productive part of the community. The academy involves helping the homeless find accommodations, providing training, qualifications, work experience and ultimately a full time paying job. It’s through this type of assistance and economic empowerment that the company plans to break the cycle of homelessness.


Social Bites Philosophy

Littlejohn and Thompson’s business model and mission is cause driven, not profit driven. All proceeds above and beyond the company’s operating expenses are donated to other charities that are also tackling homelessness, or used on programs to help the homeless. Some of the profits are used in other ways too. Social Bite has funded over 1000 micro-loans to women in Malawi, and hundreds of medical procedures for people in need.

The founders have vowed that however big the company grows that they, or any other individual in their company will never become rich from the business. The company exists solely to achieve social objectives. They also seem to be aware that they cannot do all the good things that they plan to if their food, service and value is not the best in town.

Future Plans

Although Social Bite currently has only 5 locations, the ultimate goal is to grow the brand into a large chain of sandwich shops, similar to a franchise like Subway. Their brand is highly competitive with the other national and multi-national chains in their area and they see a day when Social Bite will help millions of people around the world. They’re off to a good start too. Their initiative has stirred up quite a buzz and attracted people from all over the world, including A-list Hollywood actors and prominent government officials.

Imagine if even 10% or 20% of businesses used the same model Social Bite is using to address other challenges we face in the world!? Who knows, maybe this will become a trend.

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For more information on Social Bite, please visit their website.