Social History Society Annual Conference 2019

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference

Description of Activity

Feeding minds as well as bodies: The design, decoration and material culture of British Restaurants in the Second World War

In 1940, on the instruction of Britain’s Minister of Food Lord Woolton, the establishment of “communal feeding centres” or “community kitchens” that had already begun by local authorities and volunteer groups across the country was formalized. They were originally created to assist the working poor but rapidly gained a broader appeal. In 1942 Winston Churchill ordered that they should be rebranded British Restaurants. By 1943, there were over 2,000 British Restaurants, which displaced the domestic kitchen as the heart of the home for many members of the public.

In this paper I examine the design, decoration and material culture of British Restaurants, which has hitherto been largely overlooked by social historians. I discuss the means by which British Restaurants became a brand associated with the idea of a good meal. Most tended to be located in existing buildings, which needed to be repurposed with the installation of professional kitchens with specialist equipment and a service counter. I investigate how the Ministry of Food developed a decoration policy to make them attractive to customers by offering advice on design and decoration. The policy specified ideal layouts, colour schemes and furnishings to create a morale-boosting cheerful atmosphere. Furthermore, there was a conscious effort to bring art to the masses through the use of prints of paintings from national collections, specially commissioned posters and prints by contemporary artists and the undertaking of murals by professional artists, local art colleges and their students.
Period10 Jun 2019
Event typeConference
LocationLincoln, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • world war 2
  • restaurants
  • food
  • design
  • interior design
  • interior decoration
  • murals
  • Ministry of Food