24 September 2015

Bisto launches Spare Chair Sunday campaign

One of the nation’s most loved brands, Bisto, has joined forces with campaign spokesperson Rachel Riley and charity partner, Contact the Elderly, to launch a nationwide initiative called Spare Chair Sunday. 

- A third of people over the age of 70 in the UK eat alone every day
- Research reveals extent to which hosting one Sunday Roast a year could help tackle loneliness in older people
- Bisto and national charity Contact the Elderly launch nationwide ‘Spare Chair Sunday’ Campaign 
- TV favourite, Rachel Riley, encourages everyone to sign up and invite an older person for Sunday lunch

Spare Chair Sunday asks UK households to sign up with nationwide charity Contact the Elderly and offer a ‘spare chair’ at a Sunday roast at least once a year. 

‚ÄčThe campaign aims to encourage people to offer a spare chair at their Sunday dinner table for an older person in their community.  

Bisto and Contact the Elderly are launching this initiative as a poll reveals a third of people over the age of 70 in the UK eat alone every day and many feel lonely as a result. 

Spare Chair Sunday is being backed by TV personality, Rachel Riley, who hopes people will sign up in their droves to volunteer to host an older person for lunch. 

Having experienced a Spare Chair Sunday for herself, Rachel believes it is one of the most ‘uplifting’ experiences she’s had this year. 

A roast can bring us together, yet Sunday is loneliest day of the week 

Bisto and Contact the Elderly commissioned research amongst 1,200 older people in the UK to explore the impact of regularly eating alone amongst people over 70 years old. According to Contact the Elderly, Sunday is the loneliest day of the week. 

Despite being a real favourite (49% say a roast dinner is their favourite meal) four out of 10 will eat one less than once a month with loved ones.

Encouraging moments of togetherness; tackling loneliness in the older community

The research reveals that the feeling of loneliness and not wanting to eat at all is exacerbated by regularly eating alone.  

A third (32%) of those surveyed admitted eating alone every day and of those solo diners, 20% experience loneliness as a result. 

Those who are still lucky enough to have some contact with friends and family, do so only very occasionally. The majority (58%) of those surveyed only ever eat a meal with company once a month or less. 

As people get older, the joy of eating clearly reduces. 70% agreed to eating only because it’s necessary; compared to just 26% stating they eat because it makes them feel happy. 

Interestingly, 10% confirmed having more of an appetite when eating with friends or family. 

Rachel Riley wants to increase the number of meals older people share with friends and family as the benefits are well documented.

In support of Spare Chair Sunday, Rachel Riley said: “The work that Contact the Elderly does makes a phenomenal difference. I was delighted to be invited by Bisto, as part of its Together Project, to help raise awareness of the serious issue of isolation amongst older people and the benefits that sharing a meal can have through its Spare Chair Sunday campaign. 

“I’ve been lucky enough to see it for myself and speak to some of the older people the charity supports. It was the most uplifting experience to share a meal with an older person and chat away for a couple of hours. 

“When you think of all the spare chairs there must be around the dinner table every Sunday, even if we fill a small percentage every week, it will really add up to make a huge difference.”  

Making a difference for 50 years 

Bisto has a 100 year heritage of bringing people together, around the table, for home cooked meals and Spare Chair Sunday is the latest extension of its Together Project.  Similarly, Contact the Elderly, celebrating its jubilee year, has been helping to ease feelings of loneliness and isolation in the older community by bringing people together over meal times. 

Mary Rance, CEO, Contact the Elderly says: “This year marks our Golden Jubilee Anniversary and we wanted to do something special that would mark our 50th year of bringing people together. 

“We know that regular friendship links over a meal provide a simple solution to the complex problem of isolation in older people. The benefits are enormous for both older people and hosts and volunteers at Contact the Elderly only need do it once or twice a year to make an enormous difference to older people’s lives.

“Through its Together Project and the idea of Spare Chair Sunday, Bisto is the perfect partner to help bring people together by doing something as simple as sharing a meal.” 

Helen Warren Piper, Marketing Director, Bisto, says: “We have had over 100 years of bringing people together around the dinner table, and continue to do so through the Bisto Together Project. 

Loneliness is a real problem in the UK and for older people specifically. The work that Contact the Elderly already does is proven to work and uplift the community as a whole. 

We have found a perfect partner in Contact the Elderly in driving forward our Together Project through the Spare Chair Sunday campaign and we are really excited to have Rachel’s backing. 

As Rachel says, hosting an older person at your home – whether it’s once, a few times or on many occasions during the year – has the potential to make a huge difference.”

Sign up to Spare Chair Sunday

For more information go to

The first 100 people to sign up will receive a special Spare Chair Sunday thank you pack complete with hints and tips to host a Spare Chair Sunday and a host of Bisto products to help make it special.

Notes to Editors

Photography of Rachel Riley hosting a Spare Chair Sunday available on request.

For more information contact:
David Parke
Email: [email protected]
Telephone: +44 207 067 0351

Below are regional statistics covering ‘eating alone’ and ‘loneliness’ – please contact Bisto PR team with any questions. 

33% of people eat alone everyday 
12% feel lonely

39% of older people eat alone everyday
14% feel lonely  

40% of older people eat alone every day 
13% feel lonely

29% of older people eat alone every day 
14% feel lonely 

38% of older people eat alone every day
12% feel lonely 

35% of older people eat alone every day
12% feel lonely 

37% of older people eat alone every day 
12% feel lonely 

About Premier Foods
As one of Britain's largest food producers, Premier Foods is committed to delivering the taste the British love, with food that's made in Britain by people who understand British consumers. We supply a range of retail, wholesale, foodservice and other customers with some of Britain's best loved brands, including Ambrosia, Batchelors, Bisto, Loyd Grossman, Mr. Kipling, Oxo and Sharwood’s. The company employs around 4,000 people operating from 13 sites from across the country.

About Contact the Elderly
Founded in 1965, Contact the Elderly is the only national charity solely focussed on tackling one of the greatest challenges facing society: loneliness and isolation among our rapidly ageing population. Supported by a volunteer network, the charity organises monthly Sunday afternoon tea parties for small groups of older people in the homes of volunteers across England, Scotland and Wales. 

With almost 590 groups nationwide, the charity provides a regular, consistent and vital friendship link every month to over 4,800 older people, aged 75 and over, who live alone, without family or friends nearby. At the same time, the charity also encourages its 7,800 volunteers to find enjoyment and fulfilment in achieving the charity’s aim and making new friends.

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