Hospitality Connect: the role of local hospitality businesses in connecting lives and building communities

Start date

September 2022

End date

August 2023

Project website



The aim of the research is to develop our understanding of existing and potential opportunities for hospitality businesses to play an influential role in supporting social connections within communities. More specifically, the project will employ a participatory action research (PAR) approach to identify the challenges and benefits of older people visiting local cafes and pubs. These venues provide important social spaces where people come together to connect with others. The UK’s high street has undergone significant change in recent years, from mostly retail-focussed environments to increasing numbers of cafes, presenting an opportunity to explore the ways in which many of these might be transformed into age-friendly spaces.  

Working with research partner, Toynbee Hall, and a community-based team of older peer researchers (PRs), the project will conduct go-along interviews with older adults (aged 65+), hospitality businesses and policy influencers. The findings from the research will be used to co-create resources with PRs and business owners/managers to help hospitality businesses become more age-friendly and to empower older adults to stay socially connected. These resources will take the form of an age-friendly hospitality toolkit and guidelines and a short promotional film. Data generated from the interviews will be presented at conferences and workshops, and through academic articles and project reports, and the findings disseminated by our partners at Toynbee Hall and via the project webpage.

The project is funded by the UKRI Healthy Ageing Challenge as part of the Social, Behavioural and Design Research Programme (SBDRP).

Funding amount




Principal investigator

Xuan (Lorna) Wang profile image

Dr Lorna Wang

Deputy Head, Department of Hospitality


Andrew King profile image

Professor Andrew King

Head of Department of Sociology, Professor of Sociology

Kimberley Smith profile image

Dr Kimberley Smith

Senior lecturer in Clinical Health Psychology

Xia Lin

Dr Xia Lin

Head of Research at Toynbee Hall London

Research partner

Toynbee Hall is a community-based charity with considerable experience working with local communities in East London, including marginalised and deprived communities, and delivering participatory action research (PAR) projects that involve local communities at every stage of the research process.


Frances Sanders profile image

Frances Sanders

Research Fellow

Workshops, events and presentations


Hospitality Connect introductory meeting, Toynbee Hall, 17 November 2022

Partner and Peer Researcher meeting to introduce the research team and the project. The Toynbee Hall team provided an overview of the PAR approach and Lorna Wang explained the rationale for the research, its aim and objectives, and the role of the PRs in the research process.

FASS Festival of Science, University of Surrey, 25 January 2023

A project promotion opportunity at the conference lunchtime poster session aimed at raising awareness about the research and as part of research activities conducted under the auspices of the Centre for Research on Ageing and Generations.

SBDRP Annual Meeting & Impact Workshop, Awen Institute, Swansea, 29 March 2023

Workshop for the Social Behavioural and Design Research Programme (SBDRP) funded APPROACH projects to discuss and consider research impact. 

Global Centre of Excellence on Ageing, University of Surrey, 27 April 2023

Dr Lorna Wang (LW) presentation to UNITAR representatives and invited guests at Centre launch event. XL and PR attendance and participation in panel discussion on stakeholder engagement.

End-of-Project event – Toynbee Hall, 06 September 2023

Event to showcase the research, its findings and outputs, including launch of the Hospitality Connect “Welcome All” toolkit and preview of the promotional film, to various stakeholders, peer researchers and research participants (from East London and Guildford).


Innovate UK KTN – Community of Practice web session, 26 January 2023

Dr Lorna Wang joined in discussion on Theory of Change and monitoring research and innovation programmes.  Presentation slides and workshop practical activities

Project presentation to Institute of Hospitality (CEO & EDI chair), University of Surrey, 07 March 2023

Dr Lorna Wang (LW) presented the project to the CEO of the Institute of Hospitality (IoH) and their EDI Chair as part of their visit to the University.  This led to a commitment by IoH to promote the Hospitality Connect toolkit and guidelines to members free of charge after the completion of the project.

Ageing policy masterclass presentation, Brunel University, 10 March 2023

Drs Lorna Wang and Frances Sanders were invited to attend and to present the Hospitality Conned project at the event facilitated by the Government Open Innovation Team (OIT).  Opportunity to share the research aims and design with policy makers.

BSG Annual Conference, University of East Anglia, 06 July 2023

Oral presentation by Project Lead, Dr Lorna Wang, at the 52nd British Society of Gerontology Annual Conference, ‘Making the Invisible Visible’.  Presentation entitled, “Exploring the role of hospitality businesses in supporting older people’s lives in the community” featured under conference sub-theme ‘Healthy and Inclusive Futures’.

Global Ageing Conference 2023 – University of Glasgow, 7-8 September 2023

Dr Lorna Wang has been invited by the Deputy Director of UKRI Healthy Ageing Challenge to showcase the Hospitality Connect project work at the Challenge’s exhibition stand. 


Focus group interview with peer researchers, Toynbee Hall, 23 November 2022

The first of six planned workshops with the peer researchers in East London. Aspects of the research design were discussed with six peer researchers, including recruitment approach, interview locations, and interview topics and questions. Focus group moderated by Toynbee Hall's Research Manager with Drs Lorna Wang and Xia Lin and researcher Frances Sanders in attendance.

Peer Researchers training workshop – Venue selection - Toynbee Hall, 23 February 2023

Peer researchers identified the priorities for venue selection in East London and discussed the best way to introduce the research to business owners; this resulted in the development of a ‘guide for engaging with businesses’ which the team could use when visiting different cafes and pubs in their local communities.

Peer Researchers training workshop –Interview training – Toynbee Hall, 09 March 2023

The Toynbee Hall and University of Surrey team members provided the peer researchers with an overview of the research process and interview training.  The workshop included a practical session to help peer researchers practice their interview technique using the co-produced question guide.

Peer Researchers training workshop – Data analysis – Toynbee Hall, 08 June 2023

Peer researchers reflected on what had gone well and how they had addressed challenges in conducting the fieldwork.  This was followed by a ‘hands-on’ training session on how to conduct a thematic analysis, including review of selected interview transcripts.  Themes and sub-themes were discussed and mapped.

Peer Researchers training workshop – Co-design the co-design workshops – Toynbee Hall, 15 June 2023

Peer researchers discussed ideas and prioritised suggestions for the Hospitality Connect toolkit before identifying ways this could be co-designed with stakeholders through the project workshops planned at Toynbee Hall and at the University of Surrey in July.

Hospitality Connect Co-Design Workshops – University of Surrey, 03 July 2023 and Toynbee Hall, 11 July 2023

The workshops, attended by members of the University of Surrey and Toynbee Hall project teams, local stakeholders, and research participants including [list the organisations], explored ways in which hospitality venues could facilitate greater social connectivity amongst older people through a series of break-out groups.  These helped the attendees identify ideas for inclusion in a toolkit to support businesses in creating age-inclusive spaces and challenges that will need to be addressed.