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Kent Food & Drink Business of the Year 2021: Cafe Nucleus

Learn what makes Cafe Nucleus such a sustainable company

Cafe Nucleus Rochester deckchair

At Café Nucleus we have always believed that from tiny acorns grow mighty oak trees. From an acorn of an idea that has its humble roots set back of the High Street in Chatham in 2012 we have branched out into a small chain of continental style cafes, all nestled in surprising locations in Chatham and Rochester.

From boat, herd, flock or field we work with our entire supply chain to ensure we deliver the very best food and drink from traceable origins. With nearly 60 small suppliers, of which 41 of Kent based, Café Nucleus truly showcases the fantastic produce the county of Kent produces.

Our three locations each have their own unique feel. Our Chatham site is set around a Mediterranean themed courtyard garden which offers nearly 150 Alfresco seats and has over 80 palm trees - it’s often referred to as an Oasis. We like to think we have created ‘that holiday feeling’. The site is also home to an art centre, gallery, kiln, artists studios and community rooms and space, something that is important to our ethos.

Our Lounge in Military Road Chatham, is the perfect place to sit back and relax, it offers Chesterfields and Queen Anne chairs for those with time to linger but it’s also a great place for customers needing a quick turnaround, with a focus on grab and go lines. It’s a more reduced menu, compared to the other two sites but given the same care and attention along with the same philosophy of traceability.

Our newest outlet is Rochester, which is housed in one of the grandest buildings in the town, originally built for the Medway Conservancy Board in 1909. It offers a collection of very grand rooms, panelling, coving and high ceilings. Rochester also offers a small garden with a similar to feel to our Chatham garden which seats 50. Rochester has two core products, our daytime menu which offers 106 dishes and ‘The boardroom from Cafe Nucleus Rochester’ which is our fine dining restaurant’ offering an experience similar to visiting London without the bother of the train.

Cafe Nucleus although run fully independent is part of the Halpern Charitable Foundation, helping to promote its charitable aims throughout Medway & Kent. Any purchase in Cafe Nucleus directly supports the activities of the charity and their work.

In addition to creating great surroundings and great food we believe our success has also been in creating the Nucleus team. Many of our staff have been with us for many years. We have been a living wage employer for four years, invest in training and technology to improve their wellbeing and the high level of service they deliver to our customers. Our staff retention rate of 96% is one of our proudest achievements, as is having a workforce aged from 18 to 76!

We are also proud to be part of the thriving Rochester business community. From supporting projects to put flowers in the High Street to raising money for local charities, its important to us to pay back and support the community we live and work in.


Sustainability is at the very core of Café Nucleus, we champion everything Kentish. Where possible we also source the ingredients from farms and suppliers in Kent, roughly 65p in every pound spent at Café Nucleus goes back into the Kent Economy. Our entire business model has been built on a foundation of traceability, we believe Kent has some of the finest produce available on the market and it’s important for us to showcase this. We estimate that nearly 80% of the products we use are produced here in Kent, this includes over 50 Kentish wines and sparkling wines.

From Smart LED lighting to air filtration systems, through the use of smart technology we have reduced our power demand by nearly 10% and through this technology our outlets can ‘automatically boot’ up most systems prior to the arrival of our team. The kitchen in Rochester also have an intelligent lighting system, as it’s in the basement with no natural light, to improve the welfare of our chefs the ceiling imitates sunlight with the levels of lighting dimming and increasing throughout the day automatically. We also cook on 100% electricity at all our sites, with 88% of our energy coming from renewable energy sources. The next step in our environmental journey is to offset our carbon and to become carbon neutral.