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A day in the life: Café Pembroke

Café Pembroke is one of the social hubs of the College.

It is run by Dawn, Becky and Justo, who recently joined the team. Here they describe a typical day:

Whoever is on the first shift usually arrives at 7.30am. The first job is to clear up from the night before. Then at about 8.00am you can start getting the counter ready. It is always an intense time in the mornings, getting everything prepared for the day ahead. Deliveries arrive throughout the morning and it’s almost impossible to predict when the various loads will come in.

We open at 10am and another member of staff arrives to help. We soon have our first few visitors stopping by for tea, coffee or our nice hot chocolate. People are pleased to see that all of our hot drinks come with a complimentary free biscuit. By 10.30am, the kitchens deliver lots of paninis ready for them to be heated in the café’s small kitchen. At around 11am soup and other hot food arrives from the College kitchens. Apart from these deliveries, mid-morning is one of the few quiet times in the day.


The lunch rush begins at about 11.30am. One member of staff is usually busy toasting paninis in the kitchen. The fresh food – paninis, baguettes, salads – always sells out and the new pizza slices are particularly popular. Most of our customers are students, but we also get Fellows coming in for coffee or staff coming to grab a sandwich to eat at their desks. One of the best things about the job is that you get to know lots of people and students will sometimes come in just to have a chat with you.

Things only begin to calm down at about 2.30pm. During the vacations, however, it remains busy as international students like to stop in for an afternoon snack. They are very keen on the cookies – sometimes a pile of 40 cookies can be gone within ten minutes!

At 3.30pm, another member of café staff arrives for the second shift so that whoever arrived first thing can go home. This is the quietest point in the day and a chance to catch up on all the tasks that have been left during the frantic morning rush – refilling the fridges, crisp baskets and other treats, and emptying the bins. There will still be a few people sitting at the tables drinking coffee, working or chatting. We are open until 5pm, when the coffee goes off and the café begins its transition into a bar.


The beer comes on at 6pm. Occasionally we’ll show a sporting match on the TV: the recent football game between Cambridge United and Manchester United was a good example. Students begin to arrive to relax and have a drink. We know most of them by name and for some of them you also get to know what they’ll order. The number of customers we get in an evening depends on what events are happening and whether there is a busy formal hall. If the students want somewhere to come for a drink after dinner and before they go out into town, they’ll usually stop by at around 9pm.

As the night progresses it can get very busy, and bop nights in particular can be lively. If there is a bop we like to get into the spirit of things and put on full fancy dress. We don’t close until 11pm… and then we have to do it all again the next morning!


For more information about the café, please see our website.

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