A storm in a teacup about yet another outlet for a popular coffee brand – or just a minority stirring it up?
Gloucestershirelive.co.uk’s story claiming 70 per cent of those asked did not want what amounts to an eleventh Costa Coffee in Cheltenham bubbled over and went rival on-line over the Easter weekend.
It highlighted what it called the British multinational coffeehouse company “continuing its UK-wide high street domination with its plans to move into the former Natwest Bank building - next to commercial competitor, SOHO Coffee Co”.
All of which led to follow-up article championing the joys of the town’s “11 independents” – but also dragged SOHO’s name into the spotlight and may have left some with a mistaken impression of the business.
Penny Manual, managing director of SOHO, said: “SOHO started life in Cheltenham with our original store, and we have worked hard to achieve our ambitions of growth, both in and out of the county.
“In the last 18 months, alongside opening new stores, we have invested £0.75million locally, including upgrading our head office production facilities in Cheltenham, doubling our capacity and kitchen workforce to support our stores.
“This means we now employ more than 300 people, a large percentage of which are based in Cheltenham.”
The firm was, she said, proud of its county credentials – and its success.
“As an active owner and manager within the business, I am delighted that we have been able to successfully target growth and benefit the local economy, without losing sight of our roots – the best coffee, the tastiest food and the happiest people,” added Ms Manual.
“This combination of ambition and strong core values has enabled us to stay local and artisan, while competing alongside national and international chain brands.
“We are further supported by the best suppliers, many of whom happen to be based locally, from our baker to our coffee roaster, our accountant to our marketing agency – a fact of which we are incredibly proud.”
Just to add a little more body to that local flavour SOHO uses and has relied on the skills and expertise of Gloucestershire businesses to grow including BPE Solicitors, accountants Randall & Payne, apt marketing & pr, Kitchen Garden Foods (Stroud), Four Anjels (Cotswolds), Benson’s (Cotswolds) Greenhills Coffee (Forest of Dean).
It may have 14 stores from London to Bristol and on to Cardiff and six more to open in the next three months, but its third outlet in Cheltenham opened at the Brewery this year was a £750,000 investment and created 25 new full-time jobs.
The firm was founded in 1999 by one Julian Dunkerton of SuperGroup fame before being taken over by Ms Manual and Chris Copner.
So, it would appear you can enjoy a great cup of coffee and good service from this high street chain – conscious clear and happy in the knowledge you are supporting a ‘local’ business.
By the way, a re-count of the number of Costa outlets in Cheltenham produced a new figure – 13.