The Real Food Cafe Celebrates
Since first setting foot in that abandoned Little Chef in 2004, we’ve been on quite the journey. In the almost 20 years our doors have been open, The Real Food Café has had its share of setbacks. But no matter what life threw at us, no matter how hard things got, we never lost sight of our vision. And it is because of this vision—one rooted in community, family, authenticity (and a pinch of Scottish pride!)—that we’re the award-winning restaurant you see today. Whether it's our relationship with local suppliers, widespread community work, or treatment of our employees, we’ve always upheld the values that fuel our success.
- Sarah Heward, Founder & Co-Owner
2004 – When it all started, in the humble origins of a derelict, former Little Chef.
2005 – We took the leap, completing the purchase and opening the doors of The Real Food Café. We also supported 16 runners in the first-ever Highland Fling Race.
2006 – Sarah (The Real Food Café’s founder) suffered a great loss when her husband and business partner, Steve, passed away suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 48.
2007 – During a period of much grief, we did our best to ensure the survival of the business, which wouldn’t have been possible without an outstanding team of employees.
2008 – Introduced a range of Gluten-Free foods including Fish & Chips—one that would later contribute to awards and wide renown.
2009 – Introduced home baking, starting with scones.
2010 – Became an SVQ (Modern Apprenticeship employer).
2011 – Won our first Great Taste Award—2 stars for our Carrot Cake!
2012 – Awarded our first National Federation of Fish Fryers Quality Accreditation.
2013 – Officially recognised as a Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) eco-label member for the supply of sustainable fish.
2014 – Built a 50 seat extension at the front of the café, and Colin McGeoch (Café Manager) became a finalist in the National Young Fish Frier of the Year Competition in London.
2015 – Sarah was forced to give up work for 12 months to nurse her terminally ill father. Alan McColm (her partner) stepped in to help run the café on a part-time basis.
2016 – Alan became CEO of the business, and we joined the Scotch Beef Club, meaning full Scottish traceability on all beef products sold at the café.
2017 – This was a truly amazing year for us. Firstly, we gained recognition as an Accredited Caterer from Coeliac UK for the safe service of Gluten-Free food. Secondly, we were recognised by VisitScotland Taste Our Best for promoting and selling a majority of Scottish produce on our menu. Thirdly, Alan and Sarah married!
2018 – Became an official Living Wage employer, installed an EV charger in the car park, and had our menus produced in large print for visually impaired customers. We also ensured all our staff undertook VisitScotland Disabled Access tourism training.
2019 – Held our first Gluten-Free Fortnight, and were recommended in the 2019/20 Lonely Planet Guide. We also received a commendation from the Scottish Fire and Rescue service. This was for our support of team members who double as reserve firefighters, enabling the local fire station to stay operational.
2020 – All businesses were hit hard by the pandemic, and we were no exception, having to close our doors for nine and a half months. But we soldiered on, re-financing and implementing Covid safe working practices and infrastructure for both customers and staff.
Despite the troubles of that year, we managed to earn two awards! We won the national prize at VistitScotland’s Thistle Awards for Best Informal Eating Experience and were crowned National Federation of Fish Fryers Quality Award Champion at the National Fish & Chip Awards.
2021 – Organised and hosted a series of community litterpicks resulting in over 1 tonne of litter being collected by staff and volunteers
2022 – Our team aren’t the types to sit still for long. We’re constantly thinking of new ways in which we can grow, put down roots, and make a difference. Currently, we’re working on expanding into Glasgow, and the café is undergoing a major modernisation program. Whatever we do you can be sure we’ll bring our passion, commitment, and community values along for the ride!
Towards the end of they year we won the Walkers' Cafe of the Year Category in the Great Outdoors Awards 2022 which also meant we were featured in the magazine.
2023 - Early in the year, we completed the first stage of our modernisation project and won the Field to Frier category in the National Fish & Chip Awards 2023. This award recognises our excellence in potato knowledge, care and preparation. We were over the moon with the award thanks to which we can say that our chips are the best in the whole of the UK.
We were listed in the Top 30 Best Employers in the UK hospitality sector by The Caterer.
We also completed another season of our community litterpicking - Pick N Chips, sponsored a number of fabulous sporting events, fundraised for Toilet Twinning, ran a successful Gluten Free Fortnight and A-ced Coeliac UK audit for the ninth consecutive year.
We also said goodbye & good luck to a few of our longterm employees and welcomed some new faces.