Free learning resources from arts, cultural and heritage organisations.

80 Years of Café Bar Culture

In 1935 M&S opened their first Café Bars where customers could order dishes like joints, steaks or fish and chips. When war broke out in 1939, there was more demand for restaurants (and plenty of space due to lack of stock) so by 1942 there were 82 Café Bars across the UK. These were very popular because customers could buy cheap hot meals without using ration tokens.

Black and white photo showing a long bar with bar stools
M&S Watford Café Bar in the 1930s

Old M&S Hammersmith Café Bar Before Renovation
Old M&S Hammersmith Café Bar Before Renovation

Black and white photo of M&S Cafe bar Hammersmith
M&S Hammersmith New Café Bar After Renovation

By 1950 the era of the Café Bar reached its peak, with bars in 120 stores.

However, as rationing was phased out, Café Bars were viewed as taking up valuable selling space, and so they began to be closed down. In 1961 Exeter and Leeds Café Bars became the last two to close.

In 1998, M&S opened the first of its modern coffee shops called The Coffee Bar, which was a great success and led to the opening of Café Revive in stores around the country.  In 2005, Café Revive became the first UK coffee chain to offer Fairtrade tea and coffee as standard.  Café Revive has since been rebranded as M&S Café.

Colour photograph showing an empty cafe with a long self-service area, tables and blue plastic chairs
M&S Sutton Café Revive Bar 2000

The first M&S Kitchen opened in Canterbury in 2006 selling only food made from M&S ingredients, and was decorated with designs from the M&S Archive. 

Colour photograph showing people sitting at a table with food and drink
M&S Kitchen, Canterbury 2006

M&S Cafes Today

Today M&S donates 1p for every cup of tea or coffee sold in their cafés to empower positive change for producers and their local communities. All M&S tea and coffee is 100% Fairtrade, ensuring M&S contributes more Fairtrade Premium for tea and coffee than any other UK retailer. Customers also get £1 off hot drinks when they use a reusable cup.

One of the newest and largest in-store cafés is at the M&S Leeds White Rose store which opened in 2023 with 164 seats, digital ordering points and menus that include breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea.


Colour photograph showing the interior of the cafe with brown and yellow comfy seats around tables.
M&S White Rose Cafe 2023