By Ellie Philpotts
Here at Quench Food, we’re a little curious. Well, very curious. Which is why we’ve been interviewing our way around the city’s food scene, as well as, you know, eating. This year, those on the receiving end of our questions have included Le Cordon Bleu, Not Plant Based, 200 Degrees and The Pomegranate. (We love hyperlinks.) In the process, we’ve learnt about everything from recovering from an eating disorder, to setting up a local jazz bar with a twist; the reality of being Head Chef at the world’s largest hospitality education institution, to coffee culture.
Now, we’re concluding our year before the new editors take over (emotional times), by discovering what it takes to be the boss. As our own degrees draw to a close, we’re thinking of jobs, and for many recent or soon-to-be graduates, management seems like an exciting career option, perhaps no more than in the thriving food industry. With this in mind, I popped into 200 Degrees to ask its Cardiff manager, Steve Rogers, the lowdown of running a branch of a successful independent coffee shop company.
Ellie – Hi Steve, and thank you in advance for putting up with my questions! I’m interested to find out more about what it’s like to be a food manager – how you built your way up, and what the daily routine tends to be. How did you start off in this industry?
Steve – This is my first coffee shop, but I’ve always been in catering. I’m originally from the Caerphilly area, and studied Food and Beverage Service and Professional Catering at college. I then worked for a while for Five Guys, taking me between Glasgow, Edinburgh, Leeds, Reading, Manchester, Bristol, Birmingham and London. It was back to Wales in March 2015, working in management elsewhere in the restaurant world. I still live in the Valleys and commute to Cardiff.
Ellie – 200 Degrees has been in business since 2012, as a roastery stocking beans, with the first coffee shop opening in 2014 in Nottingham. However, the Cardiff branch only set up last month – how do you feel the response has been (or bean) so far?
Steve – It’s grown drastically – we’ve got a real community of regulars, which is great. I myself was quite new to the coffee scene, so have been learning a lot, but I’m really happy with how it’s going.
Ellie – What do you think it takes for the same people to keep coming back?
Steve – I think it’s the fact that we’re in-between styles and open to interpretation. We’re not trying to appeal solely to one set group of people, so whether you’re briefly passing by on your way to work or want to sit with a relaxed cappuccino for as long as you want, you’ll be catered for.
Ellie – So what do you think makes 200 Degrees different? Cardiff has a variety of independent coffee retailers, but I definitely think this one stands out.
Steve – It’s all about teamwork, and we love the concept of collaborating with other locals in the industry. We have touches like our Barista School, and there’s nowhere else that really does that. We allow the leap from basic to speciality, which seems to be going down well.
Ellie – Speaking of the other coffee business-owners in the area, I know you’re hosting some Latte Art competitions. Can you tell me more about that?
Steve – This has been a success with 200 Degrees in other cities, so we’re planning on bringing it to Cardiff in early July. It’s where local baristas gather on an evening and all try out their best takes on latte art. It’s a really fun way to get to know others in the field.
Ellie – I’m seriously impressed by the menu content – not just because it’s updated weekly. As the person who sees all the options available, what would you recommend if I’m feeling both indecisive and hungry?
Steve – Good question! I’d have to go for the sausage rolls, which actually change daily. At the moment we’ve got ones with bacon and BBQ sauce; sage, leek and apricot; and Applewood cheddar.
Ellie – Spoilt for choice! I just had an amazing sandwich with prosciutto and goat’s cheese, but I’ll have to try the sausage rolls at some point… All in the name of research, obviously. Well thanks so much for giving me some context about what it’s like to work in this industry, and I’m sure I’ll be back soon!
All image credit: twitter.com/200degscardiff
Can’t believe this really is my last article as Quench Food Editor. It’s been so much fun and I don’t want it to be over! Thanks to the 2016/17 team, especially Editor-in-Chief and Deputy Editor George and Alice for being fantastic, and wishing all the best to those who take over for the next academic year! Ellie x