Schwartz September 2019

The Right Blend

The Coffee House Café Bistro in Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire, is a successful family-run business that insists it’s not a tea room.

When Mike and his wife Sue opened up The Coffee House Café Bistro they knew exactly what they wanted it to be.

“I love coffee,” says Mike. “So I wanted a very continental, European-style place with a friendly atmosphere.”

The family run business – managed by their son Sam – is now in its twelfth successful year. The chatty, informal environment, coupled with great coffee and fresh, home-cooked food has people queuing to come in.

“We have a huge loyal following,” admits Mike. “At least 70% of our clients are local. They’ll come in for a coffee and to read the newspaper. They’ll either have a chat with one of us or be happy to sit quietly enjoying the peace. One woman comes in every day and others have their preferred chair. If it’s already taken, they go out and have a walk and come back.”

Mike says the key to their success is not being a tea room. “We wanted to create a relaxed, European atmosphere,” said Mike.

Everything they make has locally produced ingredients and is homemade each day. Their best sellers are the paninis, which, in Mike’s words “are so full they can’t close”. They also serve a full English from 9am to 12pm and their bacon butties – which contain four rashers – are hugely popular and they go through two kilos of bacon a day.

“We don’t scrimp,” says Mike. “Our food isn’t cheap but not hugely expensive either. It’s not fancy, just good old British cooking – the food we’d like to eat! But if there is something a customer wants and it’s not on the menu then we are happy to make it for them.”

It’s this kind of customer attention that explains their steady flow of loyal and new customers.

“A lot of our regular customers come in to see us,” explains Mike. “We take the time to talk to them. We’re friendly and make them feel at home – which is important to those who may be lonely. The family appeal of the place is huge. It’s what customers want and I believe one of the reasons we are so successful.”

Mike adds he has one customer who comes in twice a day, seven days a week. “She knows us and we chat,” he said. “If she forgets her purse one day it isn’t an issue.”

Customers have three rooms to chose from: the front room, complete with comfy leather chairs and sofas, the middle room equipped with 10 tables or the conservatory, known as the garden room – and in the summer it’s a race for the eight tables outside.

Open seven days a week 9am to 5pm, the only time they close is Christmas and Boxing Day, something Mike thinks is hugely important.

“If we’re not open they’ll go elsewhere – and may then never come back,” he says.

The bistro is dog friendly and has a license.

Bill Laird, managing director of the Today’s Group said; “I was immediately struck by the inviting atmosphere despite it being busy. I ordered coffee and a bacon sandwich. Both piping hot, well presented and extremely enjoyable. A very well-managed and operated business in a small town that has a huge amount of competition.”

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