Smell the coffee
PUBLISHED: 11:50 12 July 2016 | UPDATED: 11:50 12 July 2016
The coffee boom shows no signs of abating. Independent shops are challenging the big chains and life as a barista is a credible career option. Paddy and Scott's has led the local revolution. Tessa Allingham talked to them about their success
Scott Russell has about five good ideas a week. They’ll come from left-field, when he’s least expecting it, maybe from reading, a random conversation or while out on a mind-clearing cycle ride. “At least five sound business ideas,” he confirms. “It’s constant.”
Maybe it’s something in his flat white, but he talks at a blistering pace, ideas tumbling out in a sparkling, free-flowing stream. Paddy Bishopp is marginally more measured, but his conversation too spins around ideas, plans, concepts, possibilities, the next stage in the development of Paddy & Scott’s, the coffee company he and his friend set up seven years ago.
“And my job is to reign them in, keep them on track,” says Philippa, eyes rolling skyward. “They’re as bad as each other,” she adds, conspiratorially, sipping – off message? – a black tea. “Our Monday morning management meetings are always very lively.” Philippa Brathovde is one of the company’s latest recruits to the board of directors. She has particular responsibility for corporate accounts, customer services, and human resources, bringing a high-flying career in catering and facilities management, to this buzzing coffee table.
Philippa works closely with the self-confessed ‘coffee geeks’ (that’s not a pejorative term, they insist), to help guide the growth of the company which now boasts three stand-alone shops in Bury St Edmunds, Framlingham, and Hadleigh, and multiple concessions in retail outlets (Javelin in Sudbury recently came on board), and blue-chip offices around the UK such as B&Q, Barclays, Talk Talk and Virgin Atlantic. More locally, the company has opened coffee shops in Culford and Finborough schools – at the latter the café is run by sixth formers who learn valuable business skills in the process – and it is the sole supplier to Newmarket Racecourse, turning out a high-powered 2,000 cups on a busy race day. “We want to partner with companies that really buy in to the Paddy & Scott’s ethos,” she says.
Ethos? It’s about great coffee, I’m told, that’s been sourced ethically, blended and roasted expertly, and prepared by well-trained baristas. It’s also about selling gleaming coffee machines (made to the company’s spec in Monte Carlo, natch) and café ‘packages’ to the trade. The degree of branding can be as strong or as diluted as the client wants. It’s Paddy and Scott that do the selling. The company employs no reps but the pair are backed up by a tight-knit team in the Earl Soham offices who look after training, orders and accounts. The all-important social media and YouTube channel is currently being steered by Scott’s teenage son, Henry, working with the team as an intern.
Much of what Paddy and Scott start to say is not yet media-ready, though they are clearly itching to talk. A raised eyebrow from Philippa is enough to stop them spilling the beans about ideas still being coaxed towards reality. They’d love to say more about their French pastry chef, who learnt his trade in two-Michelin-star restaurants, lined up to work on a range of coffee-matched pastries, about their plans for fully-compostable cups, about their fledgling mission to ensure that growers receive a fair wage for their work.
“We are planning trips to Kenya and Brazil where we want to create real relationships with the growers, and support the local community in practical ways,” Paddy says.
An idea that has recently come to fruition is instant coffee sticks for hotel group client, Freedom Hotels, which operates properties including the Crieff and Peebles Hydro. “They are brand advocates and wanted to have our coffee in all areas of the hotel,” Scott explains, “so we came up with an instant coffee stick for the bedrooms that is produced to our specification and has our brand look, and that feels unique – caffeinated is ‘leaded’ and decaffeinated is ‘unleaded’, for example.”
For all the big ideas, and despite the company now working with an artisan roaster “who shares our vision and passion” rather than roasting beans in-house, Paddy and Scott are careful not to lose sight of their Suffolk roots. The list of food suppliers reads like a who’s who of East Anglian producers – the likes of Blythburgh free range pork, Tiptree and Stokes sauces all feature in the locally-made sandwiches, light snacks and pastries that fill the cafés counter and chiller cabinet – and it is to the three Suffolk coffee shops that potential new clients are brought in order to get a feel for the business.
“It all began here in Suffolk,” says Scott, “but we are entrepreneurial and energetic, we want to take on big challenges, make a difference.” He is on another high-speed roll. “We are one of the fastest-growing independent coffee brands in the UK; we’ve gone from roasting 750kg in the first year to 320,000kg in 2015 which is about 80,000 cups of coffee per day! We ship beans to Hong Kong, Shanghai and Russia. We are very proud of what we’ve achieved so far.”