Big Interview: Perky Blenders on the expansion trail
Perky blenders, the east London roaster and coffee shop business, has plans to expand its estate across the UK by moving to a franchise operation.
The operator is about to open its fourth venue in a kiosk site at Walthamstow station, which will join its other three-standalone sites in east London.
It is even getting noticed by larger companies such as Google that recently asked it to run a coffee shop inside its retail site in London’s Regents Street for its Pixel event.
Speaking to Coffee Business World co-founder Adam Cozens, who owns the company with wife Victoria, says that despite the company only being three-years old the brand has become increasingly appealing.
“Developers are coming to me now and seeing it as attractive to put our coffee shop brand into their retail space,” he says.
It is looking at a range of models from traditional franchising to offering sites with a supplier agreement. There are also plans to look at the kiosk as a potential franchise operation but that is a “way off”, Cozens admits.
“With our own coffee shops we will always sit within our heartland,” he says.
“We have new businesses coming to us saying ‘how did you get started?' We needed those opportunities in the early days and I am now going to offer those opportunities to new businesses.”
Cozens says that the company already has five potential sites lined-up over the next two years, although nothing has been signed. Many of these are residential or business premises that have retail outlets below.
But ambitious expansion plans are not only in the pipeline for the retail element of the business. Perky Blenders moved to a new larger facility in Leytonstone with a roastery, training centre and head office in September. It also upgraded to a Petroncini speciality roaster, which has five times the roasting capacity than its previous site.
While the company is expanding Cozens says that there are no plans to increase roasting capacity at the Leytonstone site. But there is potential for a roastery roll-out, which could see it further expand the business.
“Our long terms goals are to set up other roasting sites,” he says.
“If we do that it won’t be that we necessarily open Perky Blenders elsewhere. It could be it is under another brand that suits the area and the market at the time.”
The plans are ambitious for the independent company that was only set up in 2015.
“We knew we wanted to build a business in Walthamstow as the demographic was changing. We had been living there for 10 years and knew there was an opportunity,” he says.
Coffee was an interest of his brother Tom so the decision was made.
While Cozens has a professional background in civil engineering and transport he also has a track record in the hospitality sector. His parents were publicans of the Blue Bell Inn in Hempstead, Essex and he managed the family sandwich bar in Bishops Stortford.
“The concept of Perky Blenders was about taking what is great within the City, such as speciality coffee, and bringing it to Walthamstow,” he says.
“We are not the only speciality coffee company but we have won two Time Out awards for E17 as best coffee place in 2016 and 2018. Also this year we won an award for E11 and E10 and are quite proud of that.”
From the outset its strategy was coffee by post with an online subscription, wholesale roasting and its own events and vending, which eventually became its coffee shops.
“We did not start with bricks and mortar and it has been a lean start-up and very much self-funded,” admits Cozens.
Love, responsibility and collaboration
From the start the company has focused on three areas - love of coffee, responsibility and collaboration.
“We built the business through collaboration and working with the coolest brands that we were aware of in Waltham Forest. These were the breweries and the cool outlets,” says Cozens.
“It was a real vehicle for us from inception. You need to be able to collaborate with other businesses within the style and marketplace and with the same target market.”
Another of its key focuses has been on responsibility and not just with its own stores, which send all their coffee waste to local allotments, but also with its wholesale customers.
It works closely with local delivery company called ZED, which means the majority of its deliveries are made by bike or electric vehicle.
“They now have a depot in central London so we have a corridor which we are hoping will extend. Even Fenwicks Bond Street kitchen is delivered its coffee by returnable bucket. These are 2kg buckets that have zero waste packaging,” he says.
This is a big development from the early days when they were delivering coffee by hand to businesses in the local area.
Three years later the business has evolved and is ready for the next phase. The expansion plans have seen it appoint a new head of coffee, Lorenzo D’Apolito, who is an AST trainer and who previously worked for Ikawa.
And there are still more opportunities in the speciality market as it continues to evolve as many wholesale customers are looking for something different than the bigger brands, he believes.
“In many cases it is about trying to find a way to improve their current coffee offer,” he says.
“They may have had contracts that have been in place for a certain period of time that don’t offer the same cutting-edge coffee as we do.”
While the majority of its wholesale customers are in the independent sector it will consider working with aspiring chains in London. In fact, Cozens admits he is in talks with one at the moment, although the details are under wraps.
Next year will also see plans for further roll-out for wholesale in the eastern counties such as Kent and East Anglia and a rebrand of its coffee packaging.
Cozens says that the company is moving to its third phase of development. While its current growth has been mostly self-funded with some investment from Funding Circle, it is open to further investment.
“I have always been a great believer that if you continue to do things very well rather than boast about how you do it you earn a lot of respect and a lot of love,” he says.