latest news

The SMILE Cafe relaunches - following the Covid-19 Pandemic

The SMILE Cafe closed temporarily with the first UK lockdown in March 2020

- and couldn't re-open untl January, 2022!

First in line - as the SMILE Café relaunched at the new Fromus Centre – was Saxmundham Town Councillor Roger Hedley Lewis, who had brought with him a small breakfast party to test out the new catering service in town.

No sooner had the tables been set out, laid and sanitised, than the orders were in – a mix of tea, coffee and hot chocolate, porridge (extra thick), toast with jam, beans on toast and a full English breakfast.

With a brand new commercial kitchen, new equipment and eight halogen plates, the head cook and kitchen staff were immediately under pressure to get ‘firing on all eight’.

The first Wednesday, with no promotion, was meant to be a very soft launch to trial the system but once service was under way, a steady stream of customers meant the kitchen service didn’t get a break until 1.30pm!

“I was very impressed with the new surroundings and the socially distanced tables. My all day breakfast was not only delicious but great value for money. I noted that daily newspapers were provided and, all in all, there was a relaxed and friendly ambiance. I will be back.” Cllr. Roger Hedley Lewis, Saxmundham Town Council


The SMILE Café presents an enjoyable diversion from ‘Brexit’ on Dec.12th


On Thursday December 12th, 2019, Election Day, the SMILE Café want to take you back to the good old days with a 40’s & 50’s singalong session - with live music and singing provided by the local female duo ‘Sing As We Go’. The pop-up SMILE Café runs from 10am to 2pm and the entertainment will start at 11.30am - so get in early to get a seat! This leaves you plenty of time to vote, either before or after and helps to brighten up the day.

Grab a coffee and cake, or a light lunch, while you join in with the nostalgic sing-a-long with local duo Justine and Michelle and, if you’re in the mood , feel free to come along dressed in 40’s or 50’s fashion! ‘Sing As We Go’ have been providing popular entertainment for several years at local care homes, dementia groups, anniversary parties and themed 40’s & 50’s nights in restaurants.

The SMILE Café is a pop-up community café run by the local Rotary Club for absolutely everyone in the Saxmundham area and is open every Thursday from 10am to 2pm for breakfasts, snacks and light lunches. The café is based in the Main Hall and kitchen of the Fromus Centre, Seaman Avenue, Saxmundham, opposite the Fire & Police station. The SMILE Café can seat up 50 customers, has disabled access and toilets and offers plenty of free car parking.

 “After 7 successful years, it’s very rewarding to see the local Rotary Club / PASTEL partnership continues to work so well, providing a popular community service for all local residents. On Dec.12th, we hope to provide a little lively and enjoyable diversion from the more heavyweight issues of the day.” Graham Ward, Treasurer, Saxmundham & District Rotary Club.

If you would like to know more, you can visit the website – or pop in and pay us a visit any Thursday!

The SMILE Cafe was set up on October 4th, 2012, by the PASTEL Community Interest Company, with support from The Rotary Club of Saxmundham & District. It was sponsored by both organisations and became self-sustaining within the first year. The SMILE Cafe was managed by PASTEL for the first two and a half years, from October 2012 to April 2015, when the roles were reversed and the management was handed over to the Rotary Club, with PASTEL in support.

The Rotary Club of Saxmundham & District:

PASTEL Community Interest Company:



October 26th, 2017 : The SMILE Cafe celebrates its 5th Anniversary since opening!

On that day, while stocks last, the SMILE Cafe will be offering free teas / coffees and cakes and pastries!

There will also be live music provide by The Green Elastic Band, with melodeon, flute and guitar.

“It’s extremely gratifying to know that my community grant of 5 years ago has paid off with such a handsome dividend for the residents of Saxmundham. Having eaten myself there on a couple of occasions I can happily testify to the quality of the food and great value-for money. And, long may it continue!”  County Councillor Richard Smith

The popular SMILE Cafe is a community cafe, manned by volunteers, and is self-sustaining.It provides everything from it's famous all-day breakfast for £3, porridge with honey for £1, bacon rolls and hot dogs for £1.50 and light lunches eg baked potatoes with various toppings, as well as various 'toasties' and panninis.

Everyone is welcome!


July 29th, 2017 : The SMILE Cafe is awarded the maximum 5 stars

- for the third time!


Folowing an inspection by the Food & Safety Team from the Suffolk Coastal District Council, the SMILE Cafe has again been rated 'very good' and awarded the maximum 5 stars..



The law requires that food businesses and other premises where food is handled or stored are registered with or formally approved by the local authority.

The food hygiene rating scheme is run by the Food Standards Agency in partnership with local authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The inspectors will check if the business produces food that is safe to eat. To do this, they will look at: the premises, the kinds of food made or prepared, how the business works the the food safety management system.

For more information, click here, or contact the environmental health service at Suffolk Coastal District Council for advice.


April 6th, 2017 : The SMILE Cafe launches a new All-Day Breakfast...

for only £3!




October 6th, 2016 : The SMILE Cafe celebrates its 4th anniversary as it opens for another week...




February 18th, 2016 : Cambridge University Medical Students learn about

the SMILE Cafe and its Growth




left-to-right:  Karolos Dionelis, Betty Xu & Nick Corke




The pop-up SMILE Café operating 10am – 2pm, every Thursday, at the Fromus Centre, Saxmundham has recently launched a new conservatory extension, and Nick Corke, Rotary Club District Governor, was on hand to cut the ribbon and usher in the expanded seating, providing visitors with a view of the local flora and fauna while they enjoy their food and drink.

“It’s good to see the successful Smile Café expanding and catering for even more customers. It’s a great example of PASTEL and the Rotary Club working together to provide a local community solution to a local community issue” said Nick Corke.

On the same day, two medical students, Betty Xu and Karolos Dionelis - in their fifth year of medical studies at Cambridge University - opted to drop in and meet with SMILE Café customers and volunteers. They are both on a short stay, as part of their studies, with the Leiston Surgery - a local GP practice with a strong interest in medical education, being an accredited centre for training GP registrars, as well as undertaking a rolling training programme for medical students from Cambridge.

Both students have an interest in psychiatry and were keen to know how the SMILE café helps to reduce social isolation and provide a welcoming oasis for those seeking some relaxation, a chat and sharing emotional support with others. So, with coffee in hand, they circulated to find out more.

“I think the SMILE Cafe has a really wonderful atmosphere – warm and vibrant. Doctors are very good at treating those who are really ill but, afterwards, the community can really help them ‘get back on their feet’. The SMILE Café is an excellent model and obviously very successful,” said Betty Xu.

“Social isolation is a big issue and can leave some people with a lack of purpose. In the SMILE Café people can meet and chat, which can greatly improve both their physical and mental wellbeing. GP’s allocate appointments as 10 minute slots, but at the SMILE Café you can sit and chat for well over an hour…” added Karolos Dionelis.

“I live alone and look forward to my once-a week visit to the SMILE Café to meet others and share life’s experiences” Janet, SMILE Café customer.


April 28th, 2015 : The SMILE Cafe supports the Saxmundham Wellbeing Day

For further information about this event, pleasse click here.


April 9th, 2015 : All change at the SMILE Cafe


The SMILE Cafe was set up on October 4th, 2012, by the PASTEL Community Interest Company, with support from the Rotary Club of Saxmundham & District.It was sponsored by both organisations and became self-sustaining within the first year. The SMILE Cafe was managed by PASTEL for the first two and a half years, from October 2012 to April 2015, when the roles were reversed and the management was handed over to the Rotary Club, with PASTEL in suppot.

The SMILE Cafe will be closed in August and be relaunched with an refreshed menu in September


March 12th, 2015 : The Chief Executive pops into the SMILE Cafe


On Thursday March 12th, Nick Hulme, CEO of The Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust, popped into the SMILE Café in Saxmundham, with his colleague Sarah Higson, the hospital lead on the Patient Experience initiative. They were there to chat with SMILE Café customers and learn about any specific issues or difficulties they had accessing health services at Ipswich Hospital.

Nick and Sarah spoke to a mix of customers who appeared fairly happy with the hospital in general but had some particular complaints about what they saw as unnecessary journeys to the hospital for minor matters that they felt should be dealt with by local GP surgeries.



Customer comments included:

 “My concern was for rural residents. More services should be moved from the district hospital to local areas. Rural residents who do not have their own transport have great problems.”

“The CEO assured me that the trust was talking to GP’s locally about taking over routine tests which can prove particularly difficult for the elderly, or those with disabilities, who require a carer to attend on each occasion.”

“The chief executive assured me that attempts were being made to enlist volunteers to assist with feeding elderly patients and those with dementia.”

“The Chief Executive was very approachable and listened to our experiences.”

Don Tricker, a SMILE Café volunteer said “I do hope the Trust can successfully conclude a negotiation with local GP’s to take on simple routine procedures, such as MRSA swab tests. In the case of vulnerable people, it currently requires two people to make a round trip journey of nearly 50 miles, taking the best part of the day for a procedure that takes seconds to carry out. After all, this already happens with blood tests…”

“It’s really important to listen to our patients and communities so we can aspire to improve further. And, I’ve been very impressed with the amazing community resource that is the SMILE Café.”  Nick Hulme, CEO of The Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust.

For more information on the Patient Experience initiative, visit the website: .


November 17th : The SMILE Cafe Volunteers support PASTEL's Sunday Brunch Fundraising Event

On Sunday November 17th, between 11am and 2pm, PASTEL will be hosting a Sunday Brunch fundraising event, at the Fromus Centre, Saxmundham. Visitors will be able to drop in, relax with the Sunday papers, chill out with live ambient music from TALC and savour special hot dogs and premium burgers accompanied by soup, coffee, tea, soft drinks and cakes. There will also be an XBox Tenpin Bowling Competition and Grand Raffle with many prizes.

The event is being held to raise funds for PASTEL who have been actively supporting vulnerable and disadvantaged people - living in rural East Suffolk - with personal development and social activities, since 2005.  PASTEL is a social enterprise, founded by parent / carers and managed by volunteers.

“Although everyone in PASTEL is a volunteer, including all the directors, all members of the management committee and all those supporting the activities on the ground, there is still the need to pay for occasional professional session workers to supervise activities, the hire cost of facilities, publicity and some overheads” says Don Tricker, Volunteer Director, “ and we thought this would be a great way for everyone to enjoy something different on a Sunday and, at the same time, help to raise funds for a good cause. We’re all looking forward to it ourselves!”


October 24th : The High of Sheriff of Suffolk thanks SMILE Cafe Volunteers


photo by kind permission of Archant

The High Sheriff centre picture flanked by SMILE Cafe volunteers and then members of the Rotary Club

The SMILE Café was launched on Oct.4th 2012  - as a weekly pop-up cafe, running every Thursday from 10am to 2pm, at the Fromus Centre, Saxmundham. It aims to provide a respite break and reduce social isolation - primarily for Carers and vulnerable adults, as well as those just in need of some company in a warm and friendly environment. The SMILE Café is run by volunteers.

Since then it has received many visitors, some as regulars, and has clocked up over 1,000 volunteers hours.

To celebrate the success of this venture, and in recognition of the team of volunteers who have made it happen, the High Sheriff of Suffolk, Sir Edward Greenwell, Bt, DL.joined the volunteer awards ceremony and personally handed out certificates to those volunteers on duty at lunchtime on Thursday,Oct.24th..


Sir Edward was joined by the Saxmundham & District Rotary Club who also took the opportunity to add their appreciation of the volunteer work in the community.


August 8th : Suffolk Coastal MP drops in for a coffee and chat



Dr. Therese Coffey, MP, takes a break to chat to carer, Linda, and some of the of SMILE Cafe volunteers, David, Justin, Jenny and Kerry, at the beginning of another pop-up appearance of the SMILE Cafe at the Fromus Centre.

And soon the cafe is buzzing with customers...

April 11th : SMILE Cafe retains 5 star after food inspection

Following a thorough inspection of our Food Safety Management System and working practice of our dedicated volunteers, the SMILE cafe has passed with flying colours. Well done to all our volunteers for maintaining such professional standards!


March 1st : Bacon Rolls all round, as 8 volunteers successfully complete their food safety training!


The SMILE pop up Café now has an expanded menu to include toasted ham and cheese sandwiches, smoked bacon in Ciabatta rolls and jacket potatoes with a variety of fillings, as well as a range of hot soups in a mug. This has been made possible because a group of volunteers successfully completed their Chartered Institute of Environmental Health Level 2 Award in Food Safety in Catering, achieving a 100% pass rate. They were awarded their certificates at the Café on 4th April, which also marked the launch of the café’s new menu. Helen Meneghello of HM training dropped in to present the 8 successful volunteers with their nationally accredited certificates and celebrate their achievement.


“I was impressed by the dedication of all the SMILE Café volunteers and the cafe' has a nice feel to it - a place to relax and chat with friends.” Helen Meneghello, HM Training


“We were surprised, but delighted, at the customers’ response to the addition of our hot food. We sold out of bacon rolls before lunch and the jacket potatoes were equally popular. The Café certainly provides excellent value for money!” Jenny, SMILE Café Volunteer Cook


“We are all very proud of the SMILE café and the contribution it makes in our local community. It means that there is at least one day every week when carers, under the day to day pressure of looking after people with additional needs, can take a break, either by themselves, or with charges if they want. We provide a venue to meet with others and expand their social circle. Also, they do not have to prepare food or do the washing up afterwards, which must be a bonus.” Pete Rowberry, PASTEL management committee member 


To view the new menu, please click here.


March 1st : SMILE Cafe volunteers training to prepare for the launch of hot food

Following a day's training, eight SMILE Cafe volunteers sat the hour-long Chartered Institute of Environmental Health Food Safety exam - and all eight passed. Congratualations to all! They are all now proud possessors of the nationally recognised Level 2 certificate.


February 28th : High Sherriff of Suffolk visits the SMILE Cafe

Andrew Norman-Butler, High Sheriff of Suffolk (centre left) chatting with volunteers and carers

On Thursday February 28th the High Sherriff of Suffolk, and his wife Karin, popped into the SMILE café for a coffee and chat. This visit was part of a year-long quest to meet individuals and groups who voluntarily devote their time and energy to improve the communities in which they live, and make Suffolk a better place to live.


“My wife and I had a very enjoyable and interesting visit to the SMILE Café, where we were very well looked after and most impressed with what all the volunteers are all trying to do for those not able to get out much, and for their carers.  It is great that there is somewhere for people to go to have some time chatting with friends and other people in the same situation and to have a chance to relax in these very difficult times.   We wish the team every success in the future.” Andrew Norman-Butler, High Sheriff of Suffolk


January 31st : Rotary President of Great Britain & Ireland visits the SMILE Cafe

On January 31st the SMILE café hosted a visit from John Minhinick, President of Rotary International in Great Britain & Ireland, who came to see the good work progressing.

“I was pleasantly surprised by the scale of this operation, with seating to accommodate up to 50 customers, and yet to see how friendly and relaxed everyone was. The volunteers are doing a great job and we’re very happy to be supporting them. This is what Rotary is all about - proactively supporting the community, on an ongoing basis, to make it more inclusive.” John Minhinick, President of Rotary International in Great Britain & Ireland

The Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland (RIBI is the association of Rotary clubs within England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland, comprising 53,000 members - men and women of all ages and backgrounds - in 1,850 clubs.

John Minhinic, centre, chats with SMILE Cafe customers

December 1st: SMILE Cafe Christmas Specials!

The pop-up SMILE Café has two special days lined up for December. On the Thursdays of Dec.20th and the 27th, not only will the SMILE café be open from 10am to 2pm, at the Fromus Centre in Saxmundham, but it will be offering a variety of free teas and coffees. In addition, there will be live entertainment, board games and a café quiz, - along with the usual selection of delicious handmade cakes and buns!

The SMILE Café is aimed primarily at Carers, and their families, but everyone is welcome that feels in the need of some company or just wants to take a break and a chat, in a welcoming and friendly oasis.

Unfortunately, many people do not see themselves as “Carers” and yet there are over 75,000 in Suffolk and the number is growing rapidly, as people are living longer. A “Carer” is a person of any age, who without being employed as such, cares for another person who needs ongoing support because of dementia, a learning disability, a long term medical condition, a mental illness, a physical disability, frailty or the need for palliative care. A Carer may or may not be a family member and may or may not live with the person.


November 8th: Waitrose, and its customers, support the new SMILE Cafe



l - to - r : Peter Hawkins (Rotary), Don Tricker (PASTEL) and Des Fry (Waitrose)

For October the SMILE cafe was chosen by Waitrose to go forward into its Community Matters scheme. There was strong support for the SMILE cafe and Waitrose were able to present a cheque for £600.

Clive Denton, Branch Manager for Waitrose in Saxmundham, said “We’re delighted to support an extremely worthwhile new community service run, by local volunteers, which is for the benefit of vulnerable and disadvantage adults and their Carers and families. And, our customers obviously feel a strong empathy for the need for a SMILE Café. In addition, Waitrose is happy to have gifted the SMILE Café with their start up supplies and wish them all their best for their innovative project.”


October 4th: A Resounding Success!



On the first day of opening, over 100 customers streamed into the SMILE Cafe in the first 3 hours!

After all the hard work put in by a small, but determined, band of wonderful volunteers the venture was declared a great success by all attending - please click here to see what customers had to say in their own words.

We would like to give a special vote of thanks to Sharon and her team from Coastal Caterers ( who provided a range of complimentary canapes and their own staff to pass them round and, in so doing, took some of the strain of accomodating so many customers.

The challenge now is to reach out to all those people, in this rural part of East Suffolk, who are experiencing varying degrees of social isolation and let them know that there is a friendly and welcoming oasis in Saxmundham - a place to relax, unwind, meet and chat with others in similar circumstances, and also have the opportunity to meet professionals to gain valuable information, advice and guidance.

Please help to spread the word - we're here to help!


The Big Launch!

The SMILE cafe will be launched at the Fromus Centre, Saxmundam at 11am on Thursday October 4th, 2012.


Preparations to Launch the pop-up SMILE Cafe at the Fromus Centre....

PASTEL and the Rotary Club of Saxmundham & District have a final round of meetings in September, to launch the SMILE cafe - a cafe aimed at supporting adults with additional needs and Carers within rural East Suffolk.The SMILE Cafe will be a pop-up cafe operating at the Fromus Centre in Saxmundham, every Thursday 10am - 2pm and will be staffed by community volunteers

The SMILE Cafe will managed by PASTEL. The Rotary Club of Saxmundham & District will provide seed-corn funding, equipment, tableware and back-up expertise.

PASTEL is currently recruiting and training volunteers to staff and help run the cafe.

The project is financed by both PASTEL and Rotary, with additional funding received from the Saxmundham Waitrose superstore and EDF Energy.

However, we wish to give particular thanks for the recognition of the extent of the SMILE Cafe customer coverage, and associated funding support, from our 4 local county councillors. They have each made contributions from their personal "Locality Budgets":

  1. 1.  Cllr. Colin Hart (Framlingham)
  2. 2.  Cllr. Rae Leighton (Blything)
  3. 3.  Cllr. Andrew Reid (Wilford)
  4. 4.  Cllr. Richard Smith, MVO (Aldeburgh and Leiston)