Why I Work In… is a monthly feature, sponsored by Huddersfield-based Scriba PR, where we ask people about their jobs and the industry they work in. Given the award-winning B2B comms agency’s penchant for an iced cappuccino, it’s time to put the spotlight on Gareth Derbyshire – founder of Old George Coffee House, conveniently located directly across from Scriba HQ in Lindley…

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Tell us a little bit about Old George 

We are a coffee shop within Heritage Exchange Lindley which prides itself on good coffee and delicious, home-made food with a modern twist. We opened our first store here in December 2020, but have a couple more locations over in sunny Barnsley, too.

The story behind the brand began almost five years ago, when our lives changed for the better after we adopted a little boy. My partner and I found balancing our corporate roles with the stresses of adoption a real challenge, and we needed to find some work-life balance.

Given we both love drinking coffee and eating nice food, we thought ‘what if this could be our work?’ – we now have a team of 25, three stores, and our own bakery.

And what’s your role there – how would you describe your job to an alien?

I’m an all-rounder and I do a bit of everything! One minute I’m the barista or a waiter, the next I can be washing pots and mopping the floors! My heart lies in customer service though – I love chatting to our visitors and listening to their stories.

How long have you worked in this sector?

I’ve worked in hospitality for five years, but my previous roles in large-scale events management have given me great experience to share my management knowledge and training background.

What skills make someone a hospitality worker?

Personality! It’s all about the smile and keeping positive – the job is a lot harder than people think. We often hear people saying it’s their dream to retire and open a coffee shop, and in truth it’s both the toughest, yet most rewarding job I’ve ever had.

My biggest tip is to never employ family or friends – particularly if you’re the boss and you need to do what’s right for your business.

What’s your advice for people looking to get into coffee?

Firstly, have the ability to change! The industry is continually evolving, and the smaller, independent outlets are in a much better position than the bigger chains when it comes to adapting to market demand and changing fashions.

Secondly, do your research. This industry isn’t for the faint hearted, so plan until you can’t plan any more – making the most of the support available to you from your peers and the local business hub, too. Be sure to properly cost everything as well – there’s no point in selling anything if you don’t make enough margin on it! No matter how popular it is.

Be original. Don’t simply copy something you like, but put your own spin on whatever it is you’re doing. You must do it your own way, but be prepared to change if it doesn’t work – this goes for everything from food and drink, to location and brand.

Finally, don’t forget the power of social media! Dedicate time each day or week to curate content, engage with followers, and build a brand presence – it shouldn’t be an afterthought. The power of customer endorsement and social selling is phenomenal and should be a part of your business plan from the off.

If you could describe your job in only three words, which would you choose?

Hard, rewarding, and balancing.

What do you most love about it?

Most definitely the customer interaction – I love talking, so this is my perfect job. When the shop is busy it’s incredible to be able to scan the room and watch people’s faces – smiling and enjoying something we have created.

What word would your colleagues use to describe you?

Fun – I try and ensure we all have fun whilst we are at work.  

Where do you hope your career may take you?

The ability to have more ‘family time’ and therefore support my little boy, while growing to be a small chain of 20-ish stores.

If someone is reading this and thinks, I’d love to work at Old George, what should they do?

Send us a message on social media – we are always on the lookout for new faces.