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Kent Community Award 2022 Finalist: Lily's Social Kitchen

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Lily’s was opened with the goal to offer employment and work experience opportunities to those with autism and learning disabilities. We wanted to be able to train these individuals in different areas so that we could then also place them into employment elsewhere. This includes hospitality and catering, admin, social media, marketing and also retail. We are hoping to expand the opportunities we offer as the business grows.

We wish to create a community in which people with autism and learning disabilities are equally represented in all industries but especially in the food and hospitality sector. While a huge employer in our local area, hospitality is an industry that is facing a recruitment crisis since the pandemic hit.

We feel that organisations thinking about the diversity of their workforce could help address this gap with some very minor adjustments and understanding. The people we work with represent a loyal, hardworking, efficient workforce and we wish to promote this to businesses as much as we can and to open up conversations in our community.

One in three people have autism and this is not represented inbusinesses. There is a wider context in our society of how paid work will reduce reliance on benefits as well as promote good mental-health and reduce reliance on mental health services - what a win-win! We are really good at collaboration and work with some
fantastic businesses that use us for their catering. We are the sole caterer for Westgate Hall and provide
food for Brachers, Social Enterprise Kent and University of Kent and we produce cakes for Lower Hadres
Farm Shop, The Well Cafe and Curiosity Coffee.

We have equally-loved businesses that have taken our trainees to offer them experience and paid work,
including Macknade, King’s School, Plurenden Dairy and McDonald's.
Our chairman is Edward Perry, CEO of Cook frozen meals and this collaboration has resulted in meal
donations for children who would usually have free school meals in school holidays as well as the whole
Cook family helping us with our business development and structure so we can help our local communities the best we can.