Growing coffee chain full of beans

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THE managing director of AMT Coffee said he wants to open more outlets in Yorkshire after launching a new shop at Leeds railway station.

Alistair McCallum-Toppin said that he expects to recruit more staff at the new Leeds outlet as sales climb.

The family-owned chain opened the new shop at Leeds railway station after re-locating from a kiosk it previously occupied.

Mr McCallum-Toppin told the Yorkshire Post: “Despite very challenging trading and credit conditions, the business is doing very well.”

He added: “Our year-on-year growth is positive, unlike a lot of other players in the high street, as well as any other sector for that matter.

“It’s very, very difficult to grow when there is no credit to do so.”

But he said that AMT is profitable and doesn’t need to go to the banks for money, which, he said, “is a very good position to be in”.

AMT Coffee employs nearly 400 staff including a crew of 17 people across its outlets in Leeds and York.

The £23m turnover business, which now has around 65 outlets across the UK, was created in 1992 by the three McCallum-Toppin brothers.

Alistair arrived in Oxford from Seattle and said he spotted a gap in the market for “real coffee”, immediately asking his two brothers Angus and Allan to join him in creating AMT Coffee.

The firm, which prides itself in being a Fairtrade coffee company, only serving organic milk, is keen to expand in Yorkshire.

“We love the place and we love the people and therefore, we would love to grow into any viable locations in Yorkshire”, said Mr McCallum-Toppin.

He added: “We would love to grow with mutually minded landlords in all kinds of places.”

Mr McCallum-Toppin said AMT Coffee, which was named after the brothers’ and father’s initials, is gaining customers everyday, adding: “And now that we’ve relocated in Leeds we’re already considerably better off and a lot of people are saying to us, ‘I didn’t even know you were here’, it’s all good.”

The kiosk had only allowed AMT Coffee to employ the minimum amount of people, he said, but added that if the sales continue to climb at the new shop, the likely outcome is that it will be recruiting some local talent.

“It’s a better location. More people see us.

The people that are walking into the station now know that we’re there, whereas previously they would have had to go out of their way”, said Mr McCallum- Toppin.

AMT Coffee initially moved into a kiosk at Leeds railway station a few years ago.

It had raised concerns about its location at the time, but moved in anyway, later proposing a re-location within the station, which has now been completed.

Mr McCallum-Toppin said: “As we are a small independent company, it was very hard to grow into Network Rail stations and although we raised concerns, we went ahead with a kiosk that they proposed.

“After a couple of years of trying to relocate or remove our service, they offered us this unit, which we decided to proceed with and applied our brand new image to what our customers consider the best cup of coffee in the UK.”

AMT Coffee launched a new look last year, which it has also applied to its new Leeds shop.

Mr McCallum-Toppin said: “We built our unit with the finest materials and it cost us plenty but as it was built by British craftsmen, it was built to last.”

He added: “It’s got top quality materials, it’s marble and bronze and real woods, all of which are classic décor, they never go out of style.”

As well as targeting further growth in the UK, AMT Coffee is looking at some further overseas expansion.

Mr McCallum-Toppin declined to reveal profit figures, but said: “We are profitable.”

Asked to describe the strategy of the business, he said: “We want to serve our customers with the best cup of coffee in the UK and with a smile.”

suzan.uzel@ypn.co.uk