10 Questions – Aidan’s Kitchen

Is the thriving coffee culture in the North East a result of businesses using cafes as a place work? In Aidan’s Kitchen, their customer base is split 50/50 between business people and other customers. Richard Dawson spoke to owner Aidan Jackson to get his views on the trend

What does it take to run a successful café here in the North East?

Consistency is key. Within coffee shop culture the hours are limited, we close at 4:30pm but we never stop there. I go home and start researching, watching programmes, reading recipe books and eating out. The obsession and dedication is what I believe is the secret to success.

What are some of the main challenges doing business in the world of coffee?

A lot of people have very different perspectives and ideas of coffee, and that is a challenge. It’s a challenge to provide the best coffee, maintain the quality of the coffee bean itself and then to sell it at a competitive price. Prices are rising and it’s streamlining ourselves with the other coffee shops in the area without shooting ourselves in the foot.

How do you set yourself apart from the global coffee brands who dominate the market?

Our business as a whole I would say can be quite dominating. We offer more than just coffee and tea, we offer a wide ranging brunch menu, from a fresh open kitchen. The coffee shop culture is theatrical and it’s basically about “showing off” what you can do, and what you’re capable of. Showing off your coffee art and your knowledge of the roastery who supplies the coffee is key.

Why do you think such a thriving café culture has emerged in the North East in recent years?

Honestly, I think it’s social media. Over the past 5 years there has been a major demand for where has the most “instagrammable” food and coffee art. People want to be seen eating the prettiest food, and I think this is why café culture is still emerging, there are so many people with so many different ideas to put to the test. I do also believe when people have travelled they bring their knowledge back with them. So you have your flat white, macchiato and long blacks, which is what you can now find in pretty much every coffee shop in Newcastle.

What proportion of your customers would you say come into the café to do work or for business purposes?

We are surrounded by a lot of offices and local businesses, so our customers are usually a split 50/50 between business people and locals and students. We offer a 10% NHS discount so we usually have an influx of NHS workers at lunch time, which is great. We also have people early in the morning who will come and have business meetings, bring their notepads and laptops, have some breakfast and a coffee and then head back to the office shortly after.

Why do you think people prefer to do work in a café rather than the office?

Having never worked in an office before, it’s quite hard to tell, as you would think offices are quite a quiet place. But, is it the idea that there’s a lovely warm little coffee shop serving light lunches and delicious coffee that might just weigh up to be a better surrounding than your office desk?

Do you think people will be more or less productive working from a café?

I think more productive, it’s the time out some people need when they’re at work! Coffee on request to keep you awake and not having your boss standing over your shoulder would surely keep you at ease. It does all depend on the person though.

Do you think giving people the opportunity to use the café as an office increases your revenues?

Since day one we have had students and local business people coming to work and take some time out, and they make it their own little office. It increases revenue as they come in our quieter times, where those extra few coffees and slice of cake are a bonus.

Are there any potential drawbacks to people using cafes as a place of work?

As a business owner, serving great food and coffee is our main target, and sometimes we do get people who can take up a big table with workloads and nurse a pot of tea for a few hours, which can be frustrating, but we treat all of our customers the same, as long as they top up their coffees whilst using our Wi-Fi then we never have an issue.

If you could say one thing to the people who come into your café for business purposes, what would it be?

Firstly we’d like to thank them, like I said before they are pretty much 50% of our customer base. Opening in August was scary, we didn’t know what our weekdays would be like, but on our first week, they were there when the shutters were coming up wanting their takeaway coffee and tea and bacon stottie. They’re constant business for us, I am sure us and our business customers share the same gratitude!

Aidan’s Kitchen