WHEN people come through the door of her cafe, Lesley Allcorn has a simple aim:

“That they go out smiling. It’s the one simple thing we do. Even if we’re having a bad day, we try not to let that show. The customers are our lifeblood, so we like to look after them.

“We have a lot of suited and booted gentlemen and ladies that come in from the offices; we have a lot of agency workers that come in, so we have to keep our prices quite tight because they don’t earn a large wage; we get a lot of lorry drivers; we get the people from Honda; we get people from the crematorium and we get people just passing through.

“The clients who voted for us have all come in and congratulated us, so that’s really nice. We’ve seen one or two new people, so people obviously take notice of what’s in the paper!

“We tend to find that once we’ve fed somebody, they come back. It’s the atmosphere, I suppose. When we’re having a meltdown in the kitchen and giggling like anything, it cheers everybody up.”

Lesley was born in Kenya. “My adoptive parents, bless their souls, were farmers. They came back after the big coup in the early Sixties.”

Her husband of 35 years is in the dairy industry, and the couple have lived all over the country.

“When we were in Wales, in Pembrokeshire, I went to Haverfordwest College and did what used to be called the Hot Cat Ops – Hotel Catering and Operations.

“I then started up a little café in a garden centre and ran that for a couple of years.

“Then we moved to Devon and I started working for the schools in catering.

“We moved again. We came up to Wootton Bassett and I was assistant catering manager in the old comprehensive school before they built the new one. Then I was head cook and bottle washer at St Bartholomew’s.”

Lesley rose to become an area manager in school catering, and prides herself on having ensured meals were nutritious long before a certain TV chef became involved in the issue.

“There were so many of my headmasters and headmistresses who tried to get hold of Jamie Oliver to say, ‘Actually, what we’re being provided with doesn’t come under that bad umbrella.’

“My schools all had fresh fruit and vegetables available for the children every single day. They had a balanced meal.”

Lesley set up a cafe at Shrivenham Business Park in 2005, and the Spitfire came a year later.

“We went up to five cafes at one point, but then as leases gave way I let the others go, so it’s come back to this one.

“I think the public do relish the independents. You can go into any big brand establishment and yes, you will get exactly as the picture shows – three sausages on the left and two eggs on the right.

“But you might be served by somebody who just asks what you want, whereas here we know a lot of our clients by name, and you’ll find that in a lot of other independent places.

“Our clients are our friends. If you watch at lunchtime, when it shifts more toward the cold foods, Sally who does the sandwiches and things will see somebody in the line, know what they want and have it ready for them by the time they get to the till.

“It’s just how we work – and we always say the floorshow’s free.”

Lesley’s advice to anybody contemplating starting a business?

“Be prepared to work extremely hard for no money for a long time! But there’s an old saying – if you don’t try something you’ll always regret not having tried. I’m doing something I love.”