Blueprint Coffee, located in Whitstable, UK opened its first location, a specialty coffee van at Whitstable train station, in 2010. Now, Blueprint has opened a second, permanent site - an espresso bar in Whitstable town centre.
What did you do before you opened your first site?
Cath worked and still works full time as a Landscape Architect. I (Daniel) worked in Book Publishing, first as an Editor and then for a long time in licensing, or ‘rights’ as it’s known in the book world. My job was travelling the world licensing intellectual property. However, I became tired of working for others and wanted to run my own business. We’d also moved to the coast and I wanted to spend less time commuting and more time enjoying our coastal home. We both love great coffee and we were inspired by existing businesses in London and around the UK and in Melbourne where Cath once lived.
Was your opening a second site always a dream in the pipeline?
To some extent. When you own one successful site, however small, it seems a natural progression to showcase what you do and what inspires you to a wider audience. We felt we could do a shop really well and had an aesthetic in mind.
The two businesses are quite different. One is a coffee ‘cart’ at the local train station serving London commuters. It’s fast moving and all takeaway. The new premise is a High Street shop and we have the time and space to serve drip coffee and so on. In terms of location the High Street gives us some significant local prominence and reaches tourists who visit the town. Each business is as important to us as the other and we try to maintain the same quality standard at each- under polarised circumstances.
Were there any brand new curveballs you hadn’t encountered the first time around?
Compared to the industries we come from, the coffee world can be quite transient and finding good staff can be tricky. Luckily we’ve found them but it takes time. As our space is relatively small, the feel is ‘espresso bar’. Stop and go, rather than linger. This means that we don’t need many staff. When it comes to specialty coffee and the kinds of skills we need, Kent is a small pool to choose from. Happily, we’ve ended up with a great manager who is as enthused as we are by exceptional coffee and aesthetic quality.
The cost of things can also be surprising. As we committed to a total renovation at our site we’ve learnt a lot about cost control.
Operational systems and processes can be replicated for multiple locations, but how did you ensure the business culture and brand integrity translated across a whole new team and environment?
Our reputation means something to people in our small area. In addition, we have a reasonably strong and simple brand with which people can identify easily. Our graphics are replicated across the two sites. I think customers and staff understand that Blueprint Coffee is focused on quality and on doing things well. We’ve changed the direction of our lives to pursue our love of exceptional coffee and that is something of a statement. We don’t work on whims. If it’s not done well we’d rather not do it at all.
Aesthetically, how did you approach the second location?
We had some firm ideas: We like local craft but we also love Spanish and Moorish colours and the simplicity of Scandinavian design. We’ve managed to find some nice natural features in the renovation, such as a fireplace and an original curved Georgian window. The counter is our focal point so this features Andalusian style tiles and beautiful ash counter tops. The floors were stripped back to the original (very ancient) wood and our furniture comes from a local master craftsman, Ben Mathers. The style of Blueprint is concise and allows the coffee to take centre stage.
What’s next for you, the business, the brand, the vision?
At the moment our focus is on consolidating our current businesses and maintaining the quality standard we want. Renovation is quite taxing so we need a break from that. When we’re fully recovered from that, who knows. An entrepreneurial, outward looking approach is at the heart of everything we do.