WHEN IT comes to location, Great Coffee takes some beating; with views across to the Millennium Bridge, Baltic centre for contemporary arts and the acclaimed Sage Gateshead, it’s the perfect place to relax with a brew.
The coffee shop opened in 2009 and has grown into a thriving business, capitalising on its prominent position on the riverside where it welcomes a diverse trade including tourists, business people, and crowds from the traditional Sunday markets.
Great Coffee is run by business partners Stephen Deakin and Catherine Bellhouse, who share many years’ experience in the hospitality industry having worked together, firstly, at the Hilton hotel in Nottingham and then again at Newcastle’s Copthorne Hotel, where Stephen spent seven years as general manager while Catherine was operations manager.
Keen to channel their experience into a new venture, Catherine and Stephen decided to launch a coffee shop that could rival some of the bigger names in the industry – and Great Coffee was born.
To strengthen the team further, Catherine and Stephen recruited Daniel Josephs, who progressed with flying colours from trainee manager to assistant manager and is poised to take on more at the first available opportunity.
Catherine explains: “Three years ago, there weren’t as many coffee shops around and we felt that, as a small local business, we could offer greater consistency and greater quality than some of the big, national chains.
“Now, after three years of development and growth, we feel we have achieved our goal and have now forged close links with the neighbouring offices and businesses on the Quayside and surrounding area and built a loyal base of regular customers who treat Great Coffee as part of their working day and us as part of their family.”
The shop offers a range of sandwiches, paninis and toasties, plus delicious cakes, muffins, biscuits, fresh fruit and crisps, alongside an extensive list of beverages, which includes the much-loved coffees in various guises, 20 varieties of teas from Ringtons, frappes, shakes and smoothies. It is a policy to us use local producers and suppliers wherever possible and the menu is seasonally extended by adding soups, pastas, salads and noodles to the daily offering.
The coffee shop opens at 7.30am on weekdays and 8.30am on weekends when a wide range of breakfast options are served. Customers can watch the world go by or appreciate fantastic views of the Quayside’s many famous landmarks while they rest their feet.
There’s seating for around 40 on the ground floor, as well as a small room on the lower level, housing a 50inch plasma TV with data connection, which can be hired for private use.
Stephen is pleased with the progress the business has made over the past three years: “It’s done very well,” he says. “It started off as a coffee shop, with our focus being on great coffees and teas, and then the lunch business got really busy. Next, we concentrated on our breakfast offering and we now have a strong breakfast trade thanks to local business people during the week, hen and stag groups on weekends and the Quayside market on Sundays – which can often be our busiest day.”
In this modern age of social media and instant connections, the team at Great Coffee has made sure that it does not get left behind.
To ensure it can communicate with and receive feedback (and business) from existing and potential customers, the brand has two active Twitter accounts (@gr8_coffee and @gr8_buffets), plus a Facebook page and blog.
Catherine and Stephen both have LinkedIn accounts and they actively seek feedback via “check in” sites such as Yelp. They even participate in a customer loyalty scheme that allows customers to gain “stamps” when they buy coffees by scanning a QR code with their smartphones (loyalli.com).
Keen to move the Great Coffee brand forward, the team has recently embarked on two new initiatives.
The first of these is to build and extend the external catering and buffet services which have been offered locally for the past 12 months.
The service was initially introduced in response to demand from customers, and despite little publicity on behalf of the team, word has spread and orders are steadily increasing.
Whether for meetings, presentations, office celebrations, entertaining clients or informal gatherings, the team is happy to discuss any requirements – even last-minute arrangements.
A buffet menu has been developed offering a number of options and suggested menus include gourmet sandwiches, vegetarian platters, ciabatta bites, nibbles and dips, desserts, breakfast favourites and much more.
Recently, a selection of hot items including mini pizzas and dipping prawns have been added.
Stephen comments: “We can do anything from a few sandwiches up to a full buffet for large groups.
We would like to be challenged and very much have a ‘can do’ attitude towards everything we do. We have menus to choose from, but if somebody wants something specific and we can possibly do it, then we’ll do it. We’ll discuss anything.”
Any time now, the online ordering facility will go live on the website at www.greatcoffee.me where orders can be placed conveniently from your desk – perfect for the busy PA.
The second of Great Coffee’s initiatives is due to launch later this month and will see the shop extend its opening hours from 6pm until 10pm offering continental sociable sharing-food dishes served until 9pm for those who want to grab a light bite and enjoy a get-together with friends after work.
Speaking about the plans, Catherine says: “We don’t want to be a full-on restaurant, but at 5pm, when you finish work, you can come and sit, have a glass of wine, enjoy views of the river and all that’s going on, and have a few nibbles with some work mates or friends. We’ll be filling that 5pm to 8pm gap.”
There will be around 20 different dishes available, and although the concept is taken from the traditional Spanish tapas where each dish is shared by the group, Catherine points out that Great Coffee’s sociable sharing menu will have a broader, international flavour. The team is currently working with an executive head chef to devise a range of dishes and the shop will also be extending its wine list to ensure customers have the perfect accompaniment to their nibbles.
It looks set to be a hectic summer for Great Coffee as it aims to strengthen its brand, but Stephen admits that long-term he has ambitions for further expansion.
“We’d very much like to expand and open another site, but location is absolutely key to it,” he says. “If we found the right location, we’d definitely do it.”
Great Coffee is currently open Monday-Friday from 7.30am until 6pm, Saturday from 8.30am until 6pm, and Sunday from 8.30am until 5.30pm. However, the hours will be extended with tapas-style food served until 9pm from July (check with the team for confirmed dates).
Great Coffee is based at 81 Quayside, Newcastle, NE1 3DE. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone (0191) 261 8866 for more information. Follow
Great Coffee on Twitter: @Gr8_coffee and @Gr8_buffets or ‘like’ the Facebook page
www.facebook.com/gr8coffee for updates.
Photo caption: Stephen Deakin and Catherine Bellhouse.