Sainsbury's is Introducing Tables for Talking to Strangers

By Holly Brockwell on at

Loneliness is becoming a serious problem in our society, and Sainsbury's has decided the solution is talking to randoms at the supermarket.

Rather than awkwardly trying to strike up a conversation at the self-checkout, the retail chain is introducing 'Talking Tables' in its cafés, and even in back-of-house areas for staff. The tables will have signs saying 'Reserved for customers in the mood for having a chat', although it's possibly even more depressing to go and sit at one of those and then have no one join you.

Luckily, there will definitely be people at some of the tables – Sainsbury's will also be trialling 'table hosts' who work in the store, and some hosted by the Chatty Café Scheme, which inspired the idea.

The supermarket is particularly keen to address loneliness after research by its Living Well Index revealed that of 8,000 people surveyed, one in ten felt lonely "all or most of the time." That's six million of us across the country, despite social media allegedly keeping us connected all the time. In fact, it's even worse for young people: 65% of 18-24 year olds said they feel lonely some of the time.

The Talking Tables will be trialled from October to December in 20 stores, namely:

• Redditch
• Canley
• Dorridge
• Northfield
• Longbridge

South West:
• Barnstaple
• Newquay
• Penzance
• Truro
• Falmouth

North East:
• Monks Cross
• Hull
• Scarborough
• Bishop Auckland
• Sedgefield

South Wales/Gloucester:
• Swansea
• Pontllanfraith
• Cwmbran
• Newport
• Tewkesbury Road

That's right, no South East, and especially no London. Because you might as well label it the Raving Loony Table for all the use it'll get: Londoners don't do conversation. Not with randos, anyway.

One of the more surprising outcomes of the announcement is the discovery that Costa has apparently had 300 'Chatter and natter' tables since August. We have never seen one and couldn't find anyone who had, but perhaps it requires going to places like Hull.

"We know from our Living Well Index that community connections are a key driver of helping people to live well," says Judith Batchelar, Director of Sainsbury’s Brand. "Yet with almost two thirds of us feeling lonely some of the time, it’s important that we contribute to helping to improve the lives of our customers and communities. We hope that by bringing people together at our Talking Tables, we can utilise the potential of our store-space to help people be better connected to the communities they live and work in.”

Sorry, "utilise the potential of our store-space"? With conversation like that, we'll stick to moping over our own-brand lattes in silence, thanks.

Judging by some of the rubbish on their official Twitter account, Sainsbury's doesn't really have this 'engaging conversation' thing down at all, actually:

If you fancy a chinwag about what you think of this idea or anything else, you can find your nearest café with a talking table here. Alternatively, just whack your thoughts in the comments for your pals at Giz UK. We never close. [Metro]