Cafes with a conscience: Wild Olive Tree

Wild olive cafe

This month Robert Armour visited the Wild Olive Tree, situated in the heart of Glasgow on Buchanan Street.

17th August 2018 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

Rave reviews are what attracts throngs of customers to Glasgow’s Wild Olive Tree.

Based in Buchanan Street and set inside St George’s Tron Church, it is rated a perfect five and the 26th best restaurant in the city on TripAdvisor – an accolade many of the city’s high-end restaurants can only dream of.

According to manager Beth Reynoldson, the café’s success is down to four unique selling points: the food is amazing; it distributes all profits to charity (currently Glasgow City Mission and Bethany); it gives opportunities to people with barriers to employment; and it runs a scheme where customers can donate a meal and hot drink to someone in need. 

Every day the eatery gives out up to 30 of these free feeds to the city’s homeless and impoverished, an element of the operation Beth is particularly proud of. “It’s a system based on trust,” she tells me. “Our approach is if you are forced to ask for free food it’s most likely you are genuine. No-one enjoys handouts.”

That said you would never realise The Wild Olive is on a social mission. This café with a conscience has a distinct modern feel with a cosmopolitan clientele and relaxed ambiance. It is always busy and draws on a huge passing trade from Scotland’s busiest shopping street.

If it’s just coffee you’re after, all the favourites and more are on offer, poured perfectly by trained baristas who would give Seattle’s finest a run for their money. Then there’s five different types of scones and three cakes freshly made in-house every day with regulars adamant they are the best you can eat anywhere in the city centre.

Four new soups get chalked on the blackboard every 24 hours: anything from red lentil to tomato and basil and Moroccan spice. All are served with artisan bread and at £4.50 you won’t find it cheaper on Buchanan Street. 

Vital statistics

Cafes with a conscience: Wild Olive Tree

The Wild Olive Tree

St Georges Tron

163 Buchanan St

Glasgow, G1 2JX

Signature dish: homemade soup

Prices: competitive

Ambiance: relaxed, inviting

Opening times: 10.30-4.30 Monday to Saturday; closed Sunday


Lynette Savage, who is leaving as I enter, tells me she stumbled upon the café last week and has returned three times since. “Homemade scones are its selling point,” she enthuses. “And through my custom I’m helping others. More cafes should follow its lead.”

Wild Olive Tree’s reputation for tasty, good value food is such that an increasing number of office workers from the surrounding business have become regulars, enabling it to compete with the bigger players like Greggs and Pret a Manger in the lunchtime takeaway market.

All of the popular eatery's suppliers and ingredients are sourced ethically. Food comes from Fairtrade wholesaler Green City, coffee from Dear Green and bread from Freedom Bakery – the social enterprise where prisoners do the baking. 

“Even our crockery is Vegware – biodegradable products that are environmentally responsible,” says Beth. “While we might not be able to compete with the big chains in terms of resources, we can on ethics. That gives us an advantage.”

Its ethical status is something the public has loved buying into since it opened in 2015. “One man comes every week, buys a meal and always pays with a £50 note telling us to keep the change,” says Beth. “He just loves the ethos.”