Big Interview: Co-founder of 200 Degrees Tom Vincent explains what the future holds for the operator
Tom Vincent and Rob Darby, have over 20 years experience working in the hospitality industry running everything from late-night cocktail bars, stylish suburban venues, bistros and even garden centre cafes.
But 2012 saw a new focus when they launched into coffee roasting – in their garage. By 2014 200 Degrees had opened its first coffee shop in a former pub in Nottingham and now has further sites in Nottingham, Birmingham, Sheffield, Leeds, Leicester and Cardiff.
In a relatively short time the operation has expanded from a small roastery to receiving £3M backing last year from Foresight Group, a private equity firm, to help with the roll-out of further coffee shop sites.
Its eighth site in Lincoln is set to open at the end of February and as Vincent says there are “big plans” for more.
“We like the simplicity of coffee shops,” he says.
“We probably don’t want to be in London We can leave that to the London guys. We are looking at Midlands and north of London. The rents are just too high in London and our model is simple.”
200 Degrees targets the city centre of big cities with 60 to 100 seat venues and where possible will use any secondary space to introduce a barista school.
“It is tough finding the right sites. So far it has been 2,000 to 3,000 sq ft buildings slightly off the main drag within cities because the main drag is still too expensive,” he says.
Despite this concern, the 71 Patisserie Valerie sites coming onto the market could provide some value sites for coffee shop operators.
“We have already been offered two sites and they are touting around at the moment,” he says.
“There will be 71 fully-fitted cafes coming on the market. We would have to change quite a lot of the look but you have air con, you have got a floor down, you have got drainage, electrics and toilets fitted and you have a lot of your cost base covered.”
The next target city for 200 Degrees is Manchester where it is currently in negotiations for three sites, although Vincent thinks that all of these are unlikely progress to site openings.
“If they all became available we would do them all,” he says.
“Part of our model is to open a second and third site in the big cities. We have two in Nottingham so if Nottingham can support two then Birmingham can definitely support three and Manchester can support three without cannibalising each others output.”
However, as the operator is still relatively small he is conscious that the company needs to be careful as one bad venue, he admits, could be “quite painful”.
Vincent says the simplicity of running a coffee shop is where the company intends to stay. It will keep the food menu simple and has no plans to employ chefs. There will be no late night opening for ‘coffee and cocktails’ and sites will continue to close at 8pm, benefitting from the after work social crowd who are drinking tea and hot chocolate.
“At some point you have to say this is our point of difference. We won’t do cocktails in the evening. It is not the fact it is the wrong thing to do or it won’t make money but have your point of difference and do what you enjoy,” he says.
However, he predicts the challenges faced by the high street will remain.
“To make a coffee shop work you need a constant stream, you need to be busy all the hours you are open,” he says.
“The market is changing daily and the high street is a mess at the moment. There are quite a lot of retail chains going into administration and a few sites going on the market that would need change of use. The landlords can be concerned about changing away from retail, but hopefully we are getting a reputation that the landlords are happy with.”
200 Degrees is also a coffee roaster and wholesaler. This part of the business is booming with it shipping out over three tonnes of coffee to customers just before Christmas.
“We have the scale to do quite a lot more,” he reveals.
Vincent is pragmatic about the future.
“We do the business that we enjoy and are proud of and try not to be too arrogant about it,” he says.
- 200 Degrees co-founder Tom Vincent is a member of the European Coffee, Tea & Soft Drinks Expo's Steering Panel.
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