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Serving Not Only The Most Important Meal of the Day But Also The Most Important Lesson

Earlier this week, my eye was caught by a headline that read… “Would you pay £20 for a boiled egg?”

Even as someone who works in marketing, I couldn’t resist this clickbait…

However unlike most clickbait which leaves me feeling conned – 5 minutes later, I knew that Eggs & Bread had to be this week’s Corkscrew Thinking in Action Case Study. 

In summary, Eggs & Bread is a pay what you can/ want cafe in Walthamstow, East London offering boiled eggs, toast, jam, tea and coffee. Founded by Guy Wilson, he and the team at the cafe are driven by the belief that ‘everyone deserves to have a good start to the day’. The idea is that anyone ‘from city broker to someone who is broke’ is welcome to come and enjoy breakfast. From school children, the homeless, pensioners to city workers. The door at Eggs & Bread is open to all. 

The concept of pay-what-you-can is not new, there are many other establishments from cafes to barbers offering similar initiatives. There are however a couple of brilliant Corkscrew Thinking Twists to this particular story. 

The first is that they are breaking the social norm of someone else cooking and serving your food. At Eggs & Bread, it’s self service. From boiling your egg, buttering the toast,  pouring the coffee to washing up after yourself. For anyone who has been part of a Corkscrew Experienceship, you will know that this last point – ‘clean your cups’ is one our key mantras and speaks volumes when it comes to humility. 

Although most of the attention is on the benefits offered to those who are unable to afford breakfast, I think there maybe a less obvious but valuable social gain for those paying above the average donation eggs and soldiers. Not only are they able to get a sense of giving back by paying-it-forward, the self-service element helps keep them grounded and humble. For those in fast paced, senior positions – I can imagine that it is a grounding ritual to go somewhere where you are expected to behave in exactly the same way as everyone else. No wining and dining. No silver spoon service. Just simple self service. 

Obviously those who benefit from the cafe most are those at the other end of the scale who perhaps pay just a few pence for their breakfast. From an accessibility point of view, providing people who would normally be unable to afford breakfast in a cafe, the opportunity to come in and partake in the same experience as ‘everyone else’ provides a huge social and psychological boost. Imagine for a second the impact of this for those who for the majority of the time, e.g. the homeless, elderly or socially isolated feel invisible. What an amazing impact to have and through such a seemingly simple micro-solution. 

To build upon this, when it comes to the feng shui of the cafe… 

“We have communal tables – obviously

With community being such a key part of Eggs & Bread, this makes a lot of sense. But again, it breaks the normal expectations of a cafe in which you would normally take up a seat a private table. This simple decision, immediately removes many social barriers and increases the chances of people striking up a conversation whilst also removing the feeling of self-consciousness for those who visit the cafe by themselves. 

Rather than speak on their behalf, I would like to now share an extract from a blog on their website which starts to paint a passionate idea of the status quo that they are challenging in the form of austerity and the way in which we treat those struggling to make ends meet.

But sometimes we miss the obvious ones. I could decide my nose doesn’t fit, is upsetting me and therefore book a tweak on the NHS, and no one would question me, call me a scrounger, nor expect me to pay a penny. But what if I’m hungry and cold? At best I have to justify my position to receive funds to feed me and too often I’m treated as a charity case, someone to look down on and encouraged to feel ashamed of myself. If I have a home I often need to prove I’m desperate and plead my case to an organisation such as Citizens Advice to get a voucher. Then I have to plod on down to the local food bank and collect my “rations” of supplies. These, sadly, are a vital part of our society, but often the food is donated and much like the “harvest festival” when I was a child our typical mentality is that “if I’m giving something away, it’s got to be a lower quality that I would normally buy”. So random boxes of low quality, low nutrient-dense grub.

And if I don’t have a home, then it’s worse. Shelter and soup kitchens that often move, where they dish out meals made from an eclectic mix of donated leftovers or budget produce. And, despite being let down by society leaving me in such dire straits, I’m expected to be grateful for the small mercy given me, whilst all the time it’s enforced and I’m made to feel that I truly am a lower cast in society. Extract taken from –

And finally – the menu which of course is… different. The team pride themselves on offering “The Smallest Menu on Wood Street”. Again, a refreshing change to the double sided, presentation folder, wall length black board options that we are so often faced with. Which, only contribute to fuelling our privileged lifestyle whereby we expect to spoilt for choice every time we dine out. At Eggs & Bread the choice is simple; eggs, toast, porridge, tea and coffee. And absolutely no question of “how do you like your eggs in the morning”. 

The one and only answer at Eggs & Bread is… boiled.   

As usual, having spent quite a few hours researching and putting together this story, I am now full of love and admiration for the work that Eggs & Bread do on a daily basis. What a brilliant, practical and positive idea to help those in need. But this is also a shining example of Corkscrew Thinking in Action, providing a non-linear micro-solution to a number of micro-problems associated with the massive problem of homelessness and austerity within the UK Capital. TheirCreativity comes from the idea of bringing everyone into one place. Rather than fundraising and then offering meals in a soup kitchen or food bank environment, Eggs & Bread recognise the importance of equality and community in making people feel valued, safe and an equal part of society. Their Courage should need little introduction. Although run as a not-for-profit, the team at Eggs & Bread still open their doors everyday and allow people to potentially pay nothing. This courage, I think is balanced with a faith in the goodness of people to help others when given an opportunity and that in itself is something to be celebrated.

So finally, what does the future hold for Eggs & Bread?

Unsurprisingly, spoken like true Corkscrew Thinkers… 

“We’ll change, I’ve no doubt. Unless you’re talking about Trump’s hair nothing stays the same forever, but hopefully that change will be for the better as we learn what works.”


Here at Corkscrew we love to celebrate Corkscrew Thinking across the globe. We’re looking for creative and courageous individuals, companies and educators and we want your help. If you think you’ve seen Corkscrew Thinking in action and would like to highlight the excellence then send us some details below. Please include as much information as possible such as web addresses, contact details and descriptions. If the Corkscrew Thinking in action you suggest is highlighted we’ll be sure to give you credit so leave your details too! 

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