Banbury Inspires: Lucy Pearson

When the UK lockdown began, our friends in the retail, hospitality and leisure sector were hit hard. At this time tens of thousands of shops, pubs, clubs, restaurants, hotels and leisure businesses were unable to access Government grants. 

Obviously, we wanted to protect our members so joined a national campaign called #RaiseTheBar. Collectively, Central Government was asked to expand the rateable value threshold meaning those affected in the sector could access a £25,000 grant in order to survive.

One Banbury business unable to trade at the time and not eligible for financial support was Tom’s Diner. We caught up with small business owner, Lucy Pearson of Toms Diner, Banbury’s first 100% plant based café, to find out more.

How long have you been in Banbury and tell us what daily life is like for you right now?
Lucy Pearson Tom's Diner

Lucy Pearson, small business owner, Tom’s Diner, Banbury. Image: Barbara Asboth Photography

I moved to Banbury about 23 years ago. I left teaching 3 years ago and retrained as a vegan chef, working first as a vegan cheesemaker, then as a cookery teacher and more recently as a chef for The Pod in Coventry. I founded Tom’s Diner in 2019.

Life right now seems to change on a daily basis, as we are working on reopening post lockdown, putting social distancing and other Health and Safety measures in place, and trying to get back to some sort of normal.

In the bubble of home, it is okay, the sun is shining, everything is pretty much unchanged. It’s only when you step out of the front door and into the town that the new reality hits.

What has been the single hardest thing to deal with in this situation?

At first, being excluded from any government support. Eventually we received a small discretionary grant.

The single hardest thing is probably not being able to plan. That is a challenge. We buy local as much as possible and have great relationships with our suppliers, so there is a sense of collective support within what we do and how we operate.

Who are your typical customers and how have you adapted to continue to serve them?

We don’t really have a typical customer, some are retired people who live nearby, some are tourists and canal boaters, and families on holiday. We have environmentalists, vegans, vegetarians and V-curious. Others come because they are gluten free or allergic to dairy. Some just find us by accident. We welcome all our customers with socially distanced open arms, and love to have a chat and find out what brings them through our doors.

What is your message to residents, shoppers and visitors of Banbury as we ease out of lockdown?

We are acutely aware of the worries and anxiety about going out. We have taken every precaution we can think of to mitigate risk, both to our customers and our staff.

The cafe and kitchen benefits from the great luxury of space, so social distancing is not an issue. We have an Ozone Generator which we use to sanitize the cafe and its air supply overnight. When the sun is shining we open the doors onto the canal-side which allows for air flow and a lovely view. We are here, and look forward to welcoming people back.

You can sit at a table and order from the menu, order to go, pick up a take out or pre-order and collect from the cafe. Or, if it’s a special occasion you can order something bespoke such as a cheese or deli board, a BBQ pack or an afternoon tea.

On Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays in August we are participating in the ‘Eat out to Help Out’ scheme to get 50% off your entire bill!

Are you optimistic that as we emerge from this, it could be a chance to create a better Banbury?

Absolutely! Banbury has huge potential to be a trailblazer in how healthily a town can function. Banbury BID has been amazing in seeking solutions. offering support, uniting small businesses and being incredibly creative during lockdown. We are all part of the same community, and the way Banbury citizens have supported one another in this time of crisis is proof that together we can achieve so much more, and that there is so much more we can still do.

Tell us how people can book or find you online and on social media.

Tom’s Diner is based in Banbury Museum, benefiting from a unique canal side setting. Visit the Museum website to find out more.

You can book ahead or arrange a takeout by emailing us at hello@tomsdiner.cafe or using the button on our Facebook page.

Our food makes for great photography, so you can follow us on Instagram too!

To read reviews or tell others about your experience with us, head to Trip Advisor or Google Tom’s Diner Banbury.

Eat Out To Help Out

In August, you can save up to 50% off when you eat in at restaurants that are registered with the Government’s scheme. There has never been a better time to eat out in Banbury. To find out more and see who in Banbury is participating, read Eat Out To Help Out In Banbury.