120 Years with a Trained Eye on the Future!

2022 brings with it soaring costs and huge challenges for SMEs. British independent businesses are the backbone of Britain, and the UK hospitality sector makes up a large chunk. It employs 2.9 million people, generates £130bn in economic activity and pays £38bn in taxation. It’s also the third largest private sector employer in the UK.

The ongoing reduction in non-essential spending by consumers as living costs skyrocket means hospitality business owners are having to work harder to win their share. The sector has been grappling with staff and skills shortages too, all at a time when getting service and quality right consistently could be the deciding factor in a firm’s fortunes.

Lincoln-based, family-run, Stokes Tea & Coffee has been brewing up exceptionally fresh roasted beans and blends for both retail and wholesale customers for 120 years. The company has a long history of supplying wholesale coffee, tea, machines, servicing, and training as well as operating two of the busiest cafés in the city of Lincoln. With most of its trading associated with the hospitality sector, Stokes is well placed to give an insight into to what the ‘coal-face’ looks like for businesses. Nick Peel is the current MD and the 4th generation in the family to run Stokes, he talks about what’s being done to support the sector.

What are the biggest challenges for your sector right now?

“I think most businesses are feeling somewhat ‘punch-drunk’ from the breath-taking extent and speed of cost rises. Hospitality has seen its fair share of eye-watering challenges of late, with staffing shortages and the dramatic effects of the pandemic. Everyone, everywhere is feeling the pinch, meaning customer spending power is being weakened. The fight to win and keep customers is intensifying and only businesses that provide the highest levels of quality and service stand a realistic chance.  

We work closely with our customers to support them. It sounds like a cliché, but we really do understand that our success depends on theirs. It’s what we’ve always focused on and is front and centre for us. Staffing and skills shortages have been an issue across the sector so it’s vital that our customers get the support and training they need to deliver the best product to keep and win their customers, that’s where our Accredited Training Academy really comes into its own.

Tell us about the Stokes Training Academy

Our purpose-built Barista Training Academy is located at our HQ, at the Lawn Building in Lincoln. It was one of the first of its kind in the area and is a dedicated facility right next to our coffee roastery. It is one of only fifty in the UK, accredited by the BSA (Beverage Standards Association). We provide everything from virtual experiences to corporate clients like Microsoft and Amazon, where they join our Training Academy Manager online for professional tasting experiences using our specially designed kits, which is a big hit for team building and corporate hospitality, right through to physical, in person City & Guilds courses for professional baristas and start up hospitality businesses. We also offer a wide range of training and experiences onsite including tours of our roastery to the general public and budding baristas everywhere!

How is the Training Academy Helping the Hospitality Sector?

Coffee can make or break a business. We know that quality is the most important factor in coffee shop success. Keeping customers coming back depends on much more than using the best beans or the best machines. We’re helping our wholesale customers to train staff so they can keep standards high, and their customers coming back - it’s vital to ensure their businesses survive and thrive. We offer free training designed specially to help them avoid common mistakes and pitfalls by adopting simple steps to keep coffee consistently perfect and customers happy. We put a lot of love in to sourcing and roasting the best coffee beans so it’s also important that the quality flows right through to the final cup!

How is Stokes Helping to Address the Skills Gap in Hospitality?

Our family business has been roasting coffee, blending tea and training baristas for well over a century! We’ve used our know-how to create a superb selection of experiences and courses so that literally everyone can explore the wonderful world of tea or coffee.

As well as providing essential training for businesses, budding baristas, and experiences for the public with a keen interest in coffee, we also work with organisations to support skills and employment such as the Princes Trust, Lincoln College and even the DWP. It’s immensely rewarding to help equip people with skills and newfound confidence, and of course, it helps the industry because it’s providing much needed skills and newfound enthusiasm for hospitality too.”

There’s no doubt that the prospects are challenging for all businesses now. But the willingness of some to share skills, know-how and work collaboratively may well be the factor that secures fortunes. Stokes is a company that is proud of its history and heritage. With further plans afoot, this great Lincolnshire business has an exciting future and is looking forward to its next 120 years!

Find out more about some of the experiences on offer here