From new blends to new branches, 2014 was a bumper year for the Ground Espresso Bars team. Investing significantly in enhancing the local independent coffee chain is paying off and owner Karen Gardiner takes us through one of their most successful years to date.
The past 12 months have been a bit of a whirlwind for the Ground team. We’ve moved forward on many fronts – investing significantly in increasing our footprint across Northern Ireland and successfully launching our first store in the Republic of Ireland.
Opening in Blanchardstown was the culmination of months of work with our partner Next plc, and I am delighted to say we have created 15 new jobs and brought a little bit of Ground to the southern market.
We have plans to further expand in the south over the next 18 months, but will never lose focus on our home market. We pride ourselves on being a truly local coffee house and will continue to invest in enhancing our position as Northern Ireland’s largest independent coffee chain.
In celebrating our 13th year we invested more than £100,000 in extensive refurbishment works in our concessions in Waterstones, Fountain Street, and Next, Donegall Place, to allow us to better serve our loyal customers.
2015 will see us move forward with our multimillion pound expansion plans with Next plc, where we have already confirmed three new sites in Newry, Newtownabbey and Enniskillen and we will finalise a further six locations across Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, creating more than 100 new jobs in the process.
Successful partnerships with two of the high street’s most recognised brands is a great coup for a small company like ours and our record of success allowed us to bid for and win the opportunity to partner with multi-national brand Tesco.
The final months of 2014 saw Ground selected as the coffee provider of choice for the newest and biggest Tesco Extra store in Northern Ireland, creating 10 jobs in the new Bridgewater Retail Park store at The Outlet in Banbridge store with significant investment in the 1,800sq ft. coffee shop. This unit has been so successful that we are working with Tesco on other prime locations across NI for 2015 and beyond.
While it might sound like we’ve just been spending time opening new stores and expanding our footprint that isn’t the case. We know that our customers want more from us than just a simple coffee.
Our coffee houses meet the diverse needs of our customers, whether that’s new features including bench top charging points, additional seating and community tables, or the new improved kids’ ‘playground’ areas in some of our stores – we are able to meet the needs of families as well as the growing number of people who use our coffee shops as a place to conduct meetings, work and gather socially.
When we launched Ground in 2001, we made a commitment to provide the Northern Ireland public with fresh homemade produce as well as high quality, ethically sourced coffee.
This year, following 18 months of preparation including a number of trips to Honduras, Ethiopia and Sumatra and a number of tasting sessions to ensure a completely unique flavour, we launched our very own bespoke coffee blend, Purple Dragon.
Working directly with suppliers from Ethiopia, Honduras and Indonesia and adhering to strict Fairtrade standards, we’ve not only been able to deliver a quality product to our loyal customers but also ensure that all individuals, from labourers and farmers to exporters are treated fairly and ethically in all stages of coffee production.
The combination of ethics and taste isn’t just important in the Purple Dragon blend – these two values are at the heart of the Ground mission to provide a haven for customers where comfort, friendship, happiness, quality and ethics become synonymous with their name.
It’s always good to look back and take stock and one of the high points of a bumper year has to be the video we put together with customers and staff. This short video truly reflects the comfort, friendship and happiness that make every Ground café special and is something we are incredibly proud of.
Now with over 160 staff across 13 stand-alone stores and concessions and with big plans for 2015, we will continue to work hard to retain the Ground values that have made 2014 our most successful year to date.