Big Interview: Notes Coffee Roasters & Bars

Big Interview: Notes Coffee Roasters & Bars

It was eight years ago when Fabio Ferreira walked past a coffee cart near London’s Victoria Station.

He decided that the young entrepreneur, while definitely having initiative, could be serving better coffee.  

Ferreira, who is originally from coffee growing country Brazil and was working for restaurant chain Carluccio’s at the time, stopped for a chat with the young entrepreneur Robert Robinson.  

And there was the start of a friendship and partnership, which has resulted in the formation of Notes Coffee, one of the most well recognised speciality coffee chains and roasters in London.

They quickly became partners and in 2010 opened in a music store near Southbank and the Opera House – and the idea of Notes was born.

It was not long before its first standalone site opened in Trafalgar Square, followed by a second site in London’s Wellington Street.

Robinson said they were attracted to the fact that the second site was near the “other opera house” but it was a challenging location for footfall and closed three years later.

“We were still selling some CDs at the time and we had an opera following but we over estimated it,” he admits. 

Ferreira says: "Everyone was looking at us to see how we could perform as a business as speciality coffee on the high street."

It was at this time that evening trading was added to the sites and has continued to be part of the offer. At 5pm, a number of the sites change vibe with music, table service, a cheese and charcuterie menu and alcoholic drinks including wine, craft beer and cocktails.

“Alcohol is really important for us as it is part of the brand,” Robinson says.

“We are not just a coffee shop. We are accessible anytime of day and the quality of the alcohol offer matches the quality and same sense of detail we have with the coffee.”

Ferreira adds: “I was concerned about turning into All Bar One. But I think we have managed to make Notes a coffee shop that is a wine bar in the evening.”

Fast-forward to 2019 and Notes has nine sites in London as well as a roastery in the capital. It also boasts James Horler, the former chief executive of La Tasca, as non-executive chairman to help guide its strategy.

Robinson says there are now three areas of focus for the business.

Firstly, to open new stores in high footfall areas in London but “we will have to see” outside the capital, he admits.

Secondly, it is looking to grow its wholesale business. Currently 55% of the coffee it produces is for external customers. It sources 75% of its coffee directly from coffee farms in countries such as Brazil, Ethiopia, Columbia, and Guatemala as well as using coffee from other countries such as Barundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Nicaragua and Honduras.

While it has number of accounts including Colicci, which runs the cafes at the Royal Parks, there are plans to expand the Notes Coffee to other outlets and even produce white label products for larger clients.

Thirdly, is the out-of-home market. Notes is about to launch its own Nespresso compatible pods, which initially will be available for consumers to purchase in its coffee shops. But it is talking to supermarkets and one department store about potential roll-out.

In another development it has agreed a franchising deal with beverage and food travel operator SSP.

Robinson says: “We have not opened any sites yet but it is up to them to find us some. We are looking at transport hubs and we would like to start in London.”













Related articles

Newsletter Sign-up