Frequently Asked Questions

People want to talk but not intrude. Just by looking at someone it is hard to know whether they want companionship with their coffee – Chat Mats help because we aren’t mind readers.

Coffee Companions has been set up as a Social Enterprise that wants to create a cultural change whereby talking to each other, face to face, becomes the norm again. There is research that shows the health benefits of social interaction for individuals and our communities benefit too. 

You don’t have to be a member, have a certain hobby or turn up at a particular time. There is no joining fee for an individual you just pay for your coffee (or tea if you prefer). Anyone can use their Chat Mat anywhere at anytime. 

Coffee Companions has been developed from an initial idea into a more practical concept thanks to the feedback that has been received. We hope that you will provide feedback on your experience so that we can hold on to the good bits and improve the bits that need improving.

When you see someone sat having a cup of coffee it’s impossible to know if they are enjoying some solitude or feeling lonely. Chat Mats exist because we aren’t mind readers. Green side up means you would be happy for others to join you for a chat. Red side means that you would prefer to be left as you are. Chat Mats can be used by an individual alone, a couple trying to make new friends or ring the changes, or a group open to new enquiries. Chat Mats can also be used by individual who is working, friends who haven’t seen each other for a long time or parties that don’t want to be interrupted.

We all need our privacy and may not want to be interrupted – at least not at the moment. People should have a choice and be able to engage with others when they want without it being considered rude when they don’t. Some people would rather not use their Chat Mat at all rather than use the red side and of course that is fine. But bear in mind that if there is nothing on your table those passing won't know whether you don't know about Coffee Companions or whether you are not bothered one way or the other about whether someone joins you. Chat Mats exist because we aren’t mind readers.

Registered locations will have Chat Mats available. They will also run a Companions Hour to make it easier to meet people and they will encourage you to try using a Chat Mat without necessarily having to buy one. However, we encourage everyone to use their Chat Mat anywhere at anytime.

We recommend that if you are nervous about the 'wrong’ people approaching you then you use the red side of your Chat Mat. If you see someone passing your table who you might be comfortable talking too then you can always say Hello and invite them to sit. Whoever you talk to be careful about disclosing personal information that could be abused.

It can be difficult, once you have spotted that green Chat Mat, to know what to say someone you don’t know. Remember that by using the green Chat Mat they want to talk so should be prepared to do their part in creating a conversation and finding common ground. You could try something as simple as a comment on the weather, a question about what they are reading, or ask advice about other places to go/see. As is traditional we suggest you avoid sex, politics and religion to begin with. Whoever you talk to be careful about disclosing personal information that could be abused.

We know that not everyone that you decide to sit and share a coffee with will turn out to be your new best friend. We encourage an open mind and a willingness to share half an hour of your time at the end of which you can easily 'need to make a move’ or 'remember you have forgotten something’ or 'even have a friend about to join you'. 

Our founder also founded Community Christmas which believes that no older person should be alone on Christmas Day unless they want to be. Coffee Companions was started so that people have another way of connecting with their communities without waiting for Christmas.  Much of the disconnect in our culture has come about because of families being so spread geographically and so, as with Christmas, we believe that much of the joy will be from mixing age groups. Coffee Companions is for anyone who wants to put down the paper, turn off the phone and enjoy a chat with their coffee.

Our founder also founded Community Christmas which believes that no older person should be alone on Christmas Day unless they want to be. Coffee Companions was started so that people have another way of connecting with their communities without waiting for Christmas.  Much of the disconnect in our culture has come about because of families being so spread geographically and so, as with Christmas, we believe that much of the joy will be from mixing age groups. Coffee Companions is for anyone who wants to put down the paper, turn off the phone and enjoy a chat with their coffee.

For those that find it harder to get out we hope that someone who visits them might be able to give a lift – this might be a carer, befriender or visiting relative. Creating the other local connections could over time provide companionship when the carer, befriender or visiting relative isn’t around. We also know of individuals that feel that asking a neighbour for a lift is a way of creating a connection with that neighbour and providing them with the incentive they need to get out and meet new people.

We know of too many websites where people can 'join’ and 2 years later their information is still listed but they have moved, changed manager or gone out of business. We want those visiting our website to be able to rely on the information. The Welcome pack fee covers the cost of the pack and while we are starting up we waived the monthly fees  In due course we may ask listed locations for a regular small payments and we expect that this amount going through a business’ bank will hopefully ensure that they regularly review their ongoing involvement. We aren't going to deny that this also helps us cover our costs.

We strongly encourage registered locations to have a sticker in their window to let a passerby, whether a local or a visitor, know that they understand about Chat Mats, all that Coffee Companions is trying to achieve, and when their Companions Hour is. However, some locations may not have appropriate space in their window or may need multiple stickers for multiple windows. We appreciate any feedback we receive and if there is no sticker because they no longer want to be registered then please let us know and we will follow up.

We want everyone to use their Chat Mats anywhere at anytime where they want to share a conversation over a drink. However, some people will be nervous about going to a new place for the first time, particularly if they don't know anyone and we hope that a Companions Hour will provide a comfortable first step where introductions to others in your community are eased.

Whilst there are more likely to be others wanting to share a chat with their coffee during Companions Hour this cannot be guaranteed and of course you may just be the first to arrive. We hope that you will still enjoy your coffee and perhaps you could talk to the location manager or staff. They may be happy to have a general chat if they aren't busy and this may be a good time to discuss how they can attract more customers and become a recognised hub of their community.

All registered locations should have Chat Mats available for use during Companions Hour and at all other times otherwise it is just like every other location where people don't know when they are welcome and when they are intruding. If you go to a location that has run out of Chat Mats then please encourage them to order some more. Of course we will also be happy to send some to you if you would like to order them on line.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and anything that encourages community contact is to be encouraged. However, we do not believe in duplicating effort or reinventing wheels so we would suggest that it is more economic (effort and financial) to use our resources and we are very happy to discuss any customisation you might want to consider.

We also believe that having just one website consolidating information is easier for those looking for local information and we are undertaking publicity to increase awareness of what we are hoping to achieve. Of course if locations want to publicise their involvement on their own website as well that is fine but individuals and referring agencies won't want to be identifying and checking all the separate options.

As a new business we have to prioritise our investment and so we are currently using a simplified location finder summarised by county. In time we plan to develop our website to provide a full postcode search facility. 

There is an increasing amount of research suggesting that physical health can be positively impacted by having regular social contact with others – many GPs are therefore interested in Social prescribing. Whilst Coffee Companions is not a ‘prescription’ we are interested in helping improve the health of our nation.

Chat Mats can be used by anyone anywhere at anytime. Hospitals may not be registered Coffee Companions locations but we hope that Chat Mats will help people, either by their beds or in the café, indicate whether they want company or not. Getting the balance between being less isolated between visiting hours when you are in unfamiliar territory and ensuring that you have space to recover from treatment can be challenging and Chat Mats help other people to know what kind of day you are having.

We are not a charity because we are not here to help ‘those in need’. We are here to help encourage everyone in our communities to engage with each other in a positive way with all the benefits this can bring. We are registered as a commercial company but, as we hope is obvious from our pricing, we are not in business to make huge profits for shareholders but rather enough to cover our costs and continue to invest in building communities. Last but not least our founder also founded a charity called community Christmas and we intend that there will be strong links between the two organisations.