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Artisan Roast: Gathering Pace in the Marketplace

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Artisan Roast: Gathering Pace in the Marketplace

Artisan Roast: Gathering Pace in the Marketplace
August 11
14:33 2016

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The sea change in consumer demand for better workplace catering and comforts over the last decade has prompted many operators to rethink their strategy in order to compete effectively. From investment, sourcing and procurement to training, development and recruitment, there isn’t an area of contract catering that hasn’t had to adapt to today’s increasingly competitive market. And at the heart of this is the ever-growing realisation that food plays a vital role in making a workforce as productive as possible; indeed, it is a theory supported by multiple industry surveys. However, a more recent trend points towards a marked increase in the importance and popularity of good quality coffee within the workplace. looks at Gather & Gather’s unique new partnership with a local coffee specialist, which is blazing a trail for other contract caterers to follow…

This coffee obsession, as one might call it, is now a recognised feature of British society. These days, many high streets are populated more by cafes than pubs; at weekends, young people congregate on enormous coffee shop sofas cradling bowls of hot, frothy beverages rather than binge drinking in bars and nightclubs; and during the week, home-based workers venture out with their laptops and tablets into the warmth and tech-savvy surroundings of their local coffee bars.

The UK has, in short, witnessed a revolution in coffee culture in the past half-decade, as drinkers have become more sophisticated in their tastes, and employees seek a similar level of quality at work that they might find on the high street or at home. As a consequence, foodservice providers are no longer able to differentiate themselves purely on product offer. The coffee has to be first class, of course, but where it is consumed has to be right too, requiring caterers to invest in fit-out costs over and above what they might have allowed for in the past. Indeed, operators are now obliged to match and in many cases exceed what end users can experience on the high street, and the introduction of new ideas can mean the difference between success and failure in gaining or retaining a particular client.

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For a company whose primary objective is to streamline the connection between food and the workplace, the foodservices division of MITIE Group Plc likes to upset the apple cart. Since launching in 2012, Gather & Gather have focused their attention on formulating a superior blend of health and wellbeing, regional sourcing and the preference of new standards over existing trends. Part of the reason for their ongoing success, in Scotland at least, is the formation of a recent partnership with Artisan Roast, a Scottish coffee company specialising in the provision of top quality beans and highly trained, knowledgeable baristas. Rolling out specially designed branded cafés within several contracts over the last 12 months, the two firms are offering clients and customers something that many of their competitors have so far failed to match: real choice for the end user.

Ric Fyfe, Gather & Gather’s operations director in Scotland, is the man behind the mobilisation and maintenance of contracts north of the Border. A committed fan of good coffee, he has spearheaded the development of this new relationship between client and connoisseur: ‘A lot has changed in the past few years,’ he says. ‘Back then, if a client had the demand and the budget to install a café or a pop-up coffee stand within a particular contract, they would generally rely on one of the big global brands to accommodate this.

Coffee 3According to Ric (pictured left), the issue for operators has been one of being able to sustain – rather than grow and generate profit from – such arrangements, which are often bound by constrictive contracts with little room for manoeuvre. Consequently, as consumers switch to more specialist discerning coffee providers outside the workplace, facilities managers have been forced to look at ways to adapt their offering, without being locked in to agreements with larger providers.

Step forward Artisan Roast, the coffee specialist whose founders started off roasting beans through a single Edinburgh outlet and now, eight years later, operate several standalone cafés within Gather & Gather contracts in Glasgow and Edinburgh, in addition to four independent coffee shops. Formed in response to a growing consumer demand for top quality coffee on the high street, Artisan Roast – founded and run by Chilean connoisseur Gustavo Pardo and his Malaysia-based business partner Michael Wilson – is blazing a trail with Gather & Gather to improve workplace refreshment throughout Scotland.

‘The world of this generation is very different to the last,’ explains Ric. ‘For staff and socialisers, it used to be all about getting together in the pub after work, or at weekends. Now, though, younger people prefer to sink into big, comfy sofas in coffee bars – PCs and tablets on their laps – either working remotely or sharing their lives on social media. Whatever reason they’re there for, coffee has become the common denominator and it was this realisation which inspired us to make it easier for more people to indulge their love of good coffee whilst at work.’

Teaming up with Gustavo in 2014, Gather & Gather approached an existing client with the idea of launching a bespoke coffee bar within the building: ‘The key point was that the coffee bar would be situated outside the physical catering area,’ continues Ric. ‘So, after gaining approval from the client we cleared out a former meeting room and converted it into a specially designed coffee shop with servery counter and tables and chairs.’

Using speciality beans, Artisan Roast’s highly trained baristas make an entertaining spectacle out of the preparation process, enticing customers with trendy branding, compostable packaging, friendly service and finely honed techniques.

It’s all about quality,’ Gustavo (pictured right) explains. ‘The beans we use are among the top eight-to-ten per cent of all coffee beans in the world.Gustarvo

‘If you buy from us, the chances are you won’t need to add sugar to your drink, whether or not you traditionally added it before. We’ve spent so long preparing the roast that it’s not bitter or sour – it’s just naturally sweet.

Ric agrees: ‘Like Artisan Roast, we use high quality ingredients and train our people properly to deliver the best possible product. Above all, we value personality over price.’

And the signs are that this approach is working, with prestigious, high profile contract wins throughout the UK and Ireland last year.

‘Over the last 12 months we’ve mobilised several big projects, in addition to significant contract extensions with existing clients,’ adds Ric. ‘I think the partnership we have developed with Artisan Roast is part of the reason Gather & Gather is increasing in popularity within Scotland’s business-and-industry sector. There is a synergy in our respective philosophies.’

And he believes the ability to work hand-in-hand with Artisan Roast provides Gather & Gather’s clients with added flexibility, which in turn helps to meet customer demand while adhering to and complementing their corporate ethos of using local suppliers: ‘Having adopted the coffee bar offering as an integral part of our corporate strategy, we believe our work with Artisan Roast has, in many cases, been a contributing factor in awarding us particular contracts.’

And so, as tastes change and consumers become more discerning, operators – including contract caterers – are quickly beginning to realise the need to diversify outside their usual comfort zones.

‘In order to persuade consumers to spend their money where they work, we have to constantly update and upgrade our offering to provide something different and tempting enough for them to do so,’ he concludes.

‘Everyone says they source locally and the big chains have their place, of course, but it comes down to quality at the end of the day, and through this partnership we are able to appeal to the entire spectrum of coffee fans.’

‘Ultimately, it’s about making people proud of their workplace.’

Gather and Gather logo

 This article has been edited from its original version, which appears in the 2016 Catering Scotland yearbook. To order your copy, email 

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Catering Scotland

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