Perhaps for the column inches they have generated in the last 12 months due to opening two cafes in Bristol without planning permission, the owners of the Costa Coffees on Whiteladies Road and the Gloucester Road have been named UK franchisees of the year by Costa.
Despite opening both outlets to a groundswell of local opposition, a public inquiry in August ruled that they continue trading, although the council claimed the cafes were both run without the necessary consent.
Stuart and Lynn Montgomery also run the Costa chains in Westbury-on-Trym and Portishead, but they have not taken over Brunel’s Buttery despite this report which is still garnering plenty of attention on Bristol Culture since being published on April 1.
The couple said it was their “unique approach of a personal and family-oriented style of doing business which has captured the hearts of their customers”.
Stuart said: “Our customers come for the wonderful coffee, the relaxing and un-rushed atmosphere, and most of the all friendly and considerate staff. We always try to remember names and choice of drinks of our regular customers, really giving the personal touch.”
The former soldier added: “It’s a great feeling to know that all our hard work in Bristol is paying off. We put a lot of time and energy into making our shops a success and most importantly a part of the local community.”
Following the news this week that Starbucks has paid no tax in the UK in the last three years, the Evening Standard carried out an investigation about the other big cafes.
Costa paid £15 million in tax in the last financial year, and makes an annual profit of £49 million. Costa’s beans are from Central America, Africa and Asia. They are not Fairtrade but Costa is part of the Rainforest Alliance.
Its milk is from Freshways, which pays dairy farmers 29.5p per litre, less than the cost of production. In Lambeth, south London, Costa claims to operate the only carbon neutral roastery in the world.
Across all stores, 60 per cent of waste is diverted from landfill, starting salary in London is £6.21 per hour, and last year the Costa Foundation raised more than £3 million towards building six new schools in coffee-growing communities.
Mr Montgomery is as a member of the Prince’s Trust South West Leadership Group, helping disadvantaged young people into employment and business.
His cafes also have their fans. After I asked people’s opinions of Costa on Twitter yesterday, @IainSears said: “Better coffee and I can understand what the hell the names of their coffees mean. Plus I cannot abide Starbucks.”
@MmeGuillotine said: ”They do decaf tea and soya milk. I’d prefer to go to independent places but they can rarely cater for me!”
@porkpie opined: ”Chain brands guaranteed certain quality of product and service at a certain price – takes gamble out of process for many.”
And @ontheceiling said: ”Staff are friendly as hell. Mood is usually laid back and atmospheric. And their snacks and soya hot chocs are beaut!”
The feeling towards Costa, however, is not universally positive. @leena_photo said that her opinion of the cafes is “not much since me and my sister both found hairs in our drink. Rat like hairs.”