Café Bridge webpages

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Welcome to brianbridge.net's café bridge pages. Here you can find information about café bridge, as well as a schedule of of café bridge drives and bridge rallies happening around London, the south-east of England, and neighbouring countries.

Organizing a Café Bridge

This page addresses how to organise a duplicate pairs event over multiple cafés and restaurants. Pairs move to a new venue after each round, guided by a movement card or roadbook, while board sets do not move. The registration fee typically covers bridge, plus refreshments at the venues, for instance lunch, or for a drink at each stop.

When?

Early weekday daytime events have been preferred, since restaurants can have considerable unfulfilled supply during this period.

Tasks

Once the date has been set, and the approximate event size established, the tasks can be divided into five categories:

Venues

Café bridge can be run with as few as three venues providing two tables each. The venues do not all need to provide the same number of tables. The closer the venues are to each other, the more venues you can have each player visit. If the venues are all on the same stretch of road, you can have them play eight rounds, all in different venues. Further away, and you may wish to limit the number of moves to seven, six or five.

Bridge organizers and restaurant staff each subject to misconceptions about the other's area.
Here are some of the more common ones. Bridge organizers:

Venue staff:

Pricing

You can offer lunch, or a drink in each venue, as part of the registration fee. Prices vary regionally but are typically

IncludedPayment to caféEvent price
Lunch (main only)£8-11£17-25
Lunch (starter & main)£10-13£20-30

It is not usual for restaurants to expect any advance payment or deposit; they are typically paid on the evening of the event. Some venues will try to offer a two-course menu where players can choose either a starter or a dessert to go with their main. You should not allow players to be offered this choice, since it makes lunch take longer. Starter and main is preferred over main and dessert, as players can buy their own dessert later.

Opening times

It is important that participating venues know that they need to be open at the start of the event, even though this may be before their normal opening time. They do not necessarily have to be fully staffed nor provide wait or bar service at this time, but they do have to be unlocked, and ready to indicate which tables they have assigned to the event. It is important that this be communicated to the specific manager or member of staff who will be on duty on the day of the event.

Large events

For large events, 25+ tables say, certain additional considerations apply.

Bookkeeping

Typically the movement and event size are decided well in advance, so it becomes desirable to have exact numbers turning up. It is useful to have a waiting list about 1/10 of the event size going into the week before the event. While an e-mail contact is sufficient for normal bookings, in the case of waiting list pairs it is important to have a phone number, since they need to be consulted efficiently in turn when a place becomes available.

Cancellations

There should be a transparent policy for handling cancellations. The strict one which I adopt is to set a date 7-10 days before the event as the final date for no-questions-asked refunds. The idea is to encourage people to communicate their cancellations early enough that there is still time to recruit replacements. There is nothing to prevent the refunding of anyone who cancels later, particularly for compassionate reasons.

No-shows and standby pairs

True no-shows — people not turning up without giving any notice — are extremely rare. Slightly less rare are people cancelling on the morning, or at a juncture when all the waiting list pairs have made other plans, or would need to be immediately contactable but are not. To cope with this, there should be a stand-by pair. This could be non-playing organizers, but also consider recruiting a pair who commit to turn up, and play all day if necessary. The suggested inducement is that they get a free lunch whether or not they are needed. If they do play then they shouldn't have to pay, and should be entitled to any prizes they might win.

Bridge

Movements

The circuit is the basic unit of the café bridge movement. Circuit sizes are given in tables. Café bridge events are based on single circuits or multiple identical circuits of one of the types given below, distributed over the available restaurants in a regular or irregular fashion. Each circuit should have its own board colour.

One consequence of this is that certain numbers of tables work for café bridge, and certain numbers do not. For example, with 42 tables signed up, and entries slowing down, it will be necessary to run a waiting list until six more pairs register, since 45 tables works (9 circuits of length 5), but 44 and 43 tables do not. When planning event size it can be worth aiming for clusters of numbers which work such as 48,49,50 or 54,55,56.

The following numbers of tables can be accommodated, based on a five-, seven-, twelve- or eighteen-table circuit:

It is possible in theory to add an even number of rover pairs to one or more circuits, to cope with an inexact number like 43 or 44 tables. This has to be done in such a way that neither the rovers nor the roved-out pairs spend too much of their time in one venue, will require at least two more sets of boards, and vastly increases the complexity of the stationery. It is not recommended.

The general rule in café bridge is that the more distant the venues, the fewer walks can fit into the schedule.

Odd-table Café Mitchells
The simplest family of café bridge movmements is based on odd-length Mitchells, typically EW up, NS down within the circuit, with players playing one opponent in each venue. The number of walks given includes a walk from registration to the first venue and a walk from the last venue to the assembly venue.
Circuit
size
Rounds
played
Boards /
round
Boards
played
Walks
555256(Long walks)
76 or 7424 or 287 or 8(Medium walks)
98 or 9324 or 279 or 10(Short walks)
Even-table Café Mitchells
An even-size Mitchell circuit needs a trick to ensure that players do not encounter the same opposition twice. There is no way to do this with stationary boards except by using double-length sections, each provisioned with two sets of boards:
Circuit
size
Rounds
played
Boards /
round
Boards
played
Walks
1264247(Medium walks)
1683249(Short walks)
Multiple opponents within venues
To increase the number of opponents faced by each pair without entailing extra walking, the movement can specify multiple matchups in each venue. This comes at the expense of movement simplicity, exercise and fresh air.
Circuit
size
Rounds
played
Boards /
round
Boards
played
Walks
664 or 524 or 304
98 or 9324 or 274
12122244
108, 9, 10324, 27, 305
1512, 13, 14, 15224, 26, 28, 305
Arrow-switching
Arrow-switches are expected at café bridge, and in single-section events it is right to arrowswitch. In medium-sized or large events, however, the classic recipe of arrow-switching 1/8 of the boards no longer serves its purpose of evening out the mutual influence between the scores of two randomly chosen pairs. The correct protocol is unknown as of writing, but one can say that there is no evidence that arrow-switching does any harm.
Distribution of circuits across venues

In the simplest case, all venues provide the event with the same number of tables, and the number of venues is the same as, or a multiple of, the circuit size. This allows the same roadbook to be given to corresponding pairs in different sections.

At larger events, different venues may not all provide the same number of tables. This increases the complexity of the movement cards as well as any other stationery. I provide a resource on this website for generating movement cards for arbitrary distributions of the circuits over venues.

Completely stationary pairs

Occasionally a pair will show interest, but for medical reasons they will be completely unable to move during the event. The solution is to give them their own table, separate from those used in any of the circuits. At registration or before, identify the pairs who will be playing against them at some point during the event, and modify those pairs' movement cards to redirect each of them to the stationary table during the appropriate round.

The stationary pair will need their own full set of boards. Two or more such pairs can be set up so that they share a set of boards.

Assigning circuits and starting positionss

In the simplest case, pair number assignment may be done randomly, or in order of booking. However

Equipment and stationery

Each venue needs its boards, and for each table, four bidding boxes, four scorecards. Optional are pencils, any publicity flyers, table cards with the schedule of the pair numbers playing at that table, and cloths (which are discouraged due to their weight).

This can all go in a bag, e.g. a Sainsbury's ‘bag for life’ can fit equipment for five tables.

Board colours should be used to distinguish multiple copies of the same board set and thereby prevent people playing the wrong opposition.

Equipment weight

Minimising equipment bulk and weight makes delivery and deployment easier in large events, and increases players' willingness to return the equipment at the end. Here are some approximate weights:

ItemDeck of
cards
Soft
board
Hard
board
Bidding
box
24 soft boards
with cards
24 hard boards
with cards
24 bidding
boxes
Weight90g25g90g140g2.8kg4.2kg3.4kg
Stationery

The most essential pieces of stationery are:

Also optionally

Deployment

It only takes a couple of minutes to physically set out the equipment at a venue. However, it is normal for café managers to have a strong preference over where the bridge takes place, so there is no point in setting anything up until they have had a chance to indicate which tables should be used.

If multiple identical board sets from different circuits are in play in the same venue, consider putting them on non-neighbouring tables.

Since every table in the event is uniquely identified by the board set on it and the circuit which is is part of, there is no need for table numbers in café bridge.

Publicity and communication

Publicity - the right sort of publicity - is really important. Nothing beats word of mouth, but we usually design a bunch of A6 flyers using Vistaprint, about £23 for 1,000 including postage and VAT.

It is natural to want to publicise café bridge events through bridge clubs. However, bridge clubs lose table money on café bridge days, so there should be reciprocity - they should be offered reciprocal publicity at the Café Bridge, and where possible, the opportunity to hire equipment to the Café Bridge.

Counties are often happy to allow flyers to be left at blue- or green-pointed events provided there is no date conflict, but don't expect too many takers from these events.

Worthwhile places to advertise include

Charity

Almost all the Café Bridge events in the UK have a component of raising money for a good cause, broadly construed. This fact helps the venues to justify reserving their tables and offering more economical deals to the event, and even contributing bridge and raffle prizes in the form of vouchers.

Often the beneficiary organisation will be chosen because of a personal relationship with one of the event organisers. Whatever the rationale, it is highly desirable for the feel-good factor of the event that the beneficiary charity should be an active, rather than a passive, role. It is reasonable to ask them to