Looking for a franchise in the food and beverage sector in the UK is in many ways like ordering a drink at a coffee franchise – there is an awful lot of choice. But when Richard Neal and Anthony Bevington decided that they wanted to go into business together, they were so impressed by the Esquires Coffee model that they abandoned plans of setting up an independent business and chose this popular community coffee franchise. Gareth Samuel tells their story so far
Both Anthony and Richard had owned businesses themselves prior to their Esquires franchise, but neither had experience of running a coffee house. Learning the necessary skills, Richard explains, was no small feat: “At the start, neither Anthony or I were the wonderful baristas we are today,” he says with a smile, “the training we received was all through Esquires locations including the one in Coventry, where the franchisee won the bfa ‘Young Franchisee of the Year Award’ and is doing very well.”
The pair opened their coffee house last November in Worthing, just 200 yards from the seafront, where there is stiff competition from rival coffee houses. However this has not stopped them getting off to a flying start in an ideal location. “As soon as we opened it was straight into a very busy Christmas period, so we had to learn on the job very fast,” Richard continues. “Since we started it has gone extremely well, better than we ever expected. I think we were very lucky in that we got the right location first time, the right staff first time, the right launch – everything about it has been good so far.
“I have been in business for 33 years and I have never previously been with a company that turned a profit in the first few months. We are of course both very happy.”
Esquires Coffee UK has recently been the subject of a major takeover bid from Cooks Global Foods and the franchise has revamped its recruitment goals, its franchise offering and even its branding to facilitate plans to replicate its extremely impressive New Zealand successes over here. Richard and Anthony concluded this was the opportunity for them after much research. “We must have been to almost every coffee house in Britain,” Richard continues. “Originally we were going to open up our own independent coffee shop business but we began looking at some franchises and Esquires just seemed to be right for us, we loved the community feel and the fair trade products that they insist upon.” Esquires’ policies towards a community ethos, fairness and charity are admirable and its loyalty card system, which encourages customers to donate points to charity, which Esquires then turn into financial donations, has taken off worldwide. Richard adds: “We loved the ethics of it. Plus before we invested we spoke to four different franchise owners who all had nothing but good things to say about it and were very happy with how things were going.”
Richard is a firm believer in the importance of location and indeed Esquires assisted the duo in choosing somewhere that would give them the best possible chance for success. In the end it was a store chosen by Anthony and Richard that met with Esquires’ approval and the business is now flourishing in the Southeast seaside location in Worthing. “We got an incredible deal on the premises with the help of the Esquires negotiator who managed to secure us a deal that Anthony and I would never even have thought of asking for. It is things like this that have enabled us to get off to such a good start,” explains Richard.
The pair, while understandably over the moon with how the business has developed so far, are planning to open another Esquires store within the next three to six months and are currently looking at the Brighton area as a viable option. Richard, having overseen such success believes that for those interested in a coffee house venture, Esquires must be top of any list. “I would say to anyone considering investing in this business that it really is a very good venture,” he continues. “Now is the right time to do it because with the new look and the New Zealand take over, I think Esquires Coffee UK is going to become a very big company very soon and a lot of people will want to sign up. I would also say that it is crucial to get your rent and rates right as we did, as this has helped us massively.”