The Coffee House sees ample room to grow in the North West and capability to eventually reach 100 sites, co-founder Chris Shelmerdine tells MCA.

With 22 locations currently operational and a new site opening approximately every month, the company is steadily expanding its footprint.

The coffee shop operator recently secured a £4m investment from AJ Bell founder Andy Bell and his retired business partner Fergus Lyons to accelerate the brand’s growth.

Founded by brothers Chris and Stephen Shelmerdine in 2011, it aims to become the leading operator in the region and is set to hit the 30 store-mark this year.

With the right infrastructure and an experienced team, maintaining this pace seems achievable, says Shelmerdine. “The unit that we have in Warrington is capable of getting us to 100 sites or above,” he states, though he tempers this ambition with realism about external factors such as the economy and political landscape.

Geographically, the focus remains primarily on the northern regions of England. “We can get down to around about North Birmingham. Past that, we’ve got some friends in the industry that would be nice not to clash with.”

The Coffee House

The strategic positioning along the M62 corridor offers plenty of opportunities for new locations without the immediate need to venture internationally, he says. “There’s so much opportunity in the UK that you can service and support.”

Despite its name, The Coffee House identifies more as a food business than a coffee shop. “Our primary focus has been less so coffee even though we think we do a good coffee product; it’s more actually the food side,” Shelmerdine explains.

This focus on food allows the company to attract a broader customer base and create vibrant community spaces. “We find a great unit, often one that’s been empty for a long time, and build spaces that people want to spend time in,” he adds, underscoring a strategy of revitalising secondary high street locations. 

Community integration is a cornerstone of The Coffee House’s approach. “At that stage, it becomes a community asset that people vote on rather than it being our coffee shop.”

Navigating the competitive landscape of high streets has its challenges, but Shelmerdine feels fortunate about the timing of its expansion. “I wouldn’t like to be growing this company 20 years ago when it was very competitive on the high streets,” he admits.

The Coffee House founders

The recent appointment of a chairman, Dave Evans, marks a significant step in the company’s development. He was formerly CEO of Arriva PLC’s mainland Europe operations and an early investor in The Coffee House.

“Dave is one of our original shareholders from 2017 and has always been a mentor. It only seems like a logical next step to formalise his involvement with us.”

Ultimately, The Coffee House’s outlook is one of cautious optimism. “The bottom line is that the world is just going to do what the world’s going to do. We’ll just have to respond and react to whatever’s going on at the time.”