200 Degree Coffee

Creating the perfect blend: how a people-focused business strategy fuelled growth for 200 Degrees Coffee

Speciality coffee brand 200 Degrees was founded on an obsession for doing things the right way. With people at the heart of their ambitious business vision, the leadership team knew they needed help from someone equally as committed to quality to deliver the right blend of strategy and people focus. They brought in People Puzzles to help and a brilliant partnership was born.

Like many of the world’s best businesses, 200 Degrees began life in a garage, the vision of two bar owners committed to serving the best cup of coffee to their customers. In 2012, Rob Darby and Tom Vincent co-founded 200 Degrees Coffee with a coffee roaster, a garage and an ambitious business vision which led to opening their first shop, and company HQ, in Nottingham in the same year.

Over 10 years later, Rob and Tom have grown the business to 20 shops and seven barista schools, bringing their obsession with coffee to an ever-growing customer base. But they realised that to sustain their growth trajectory without compromising their people-centric focus, they needed some expert help. In December 2021, People Puzzles’ People Director Ben Birchall began work with the team, immediately impressing the business’ leaders with how quickly he got to grips with the business and its vision.

Ben came into the business and quickly grasped the vision of the business, and our desire to put people at its heart.” Stephen Fern, Managing Director, 200 Degrees Coffee

The retail and hospitality sector has been hit with many challenges in recent years so it’s refreshing to see a business bucking the trend and looking to expand. With over 270 employees across the company HQ and its 20 shops, and seven sites offering Barista Schools including courses like “Home Brew” and “Advanced Latte Art,” they also offer bespoke team building sessions. It’s clear they have a passion for coffee, for their people and a desire to grow further, and the foresight to know when to bring in external expertise to deliver those ambitions.

The right foundations for growth

Ben’s first job was to assess where the business was and what would be needed to support its next stage of growth.

“With no dedicated specialist HR personnel in post, it became quickly apparent creating a dedicated people function was top of the list,” says Ben. “A central HR team with clear and consistent processes for all employees, as well as developing the company culture, were essential steps for the business plans to succeed.”

The business needed to evolve to support its vision, so how did Ben help inject some much-needed caffeine into the people function at 200 Degrees?

Building a dedicated People Function

Starting from the ground up, Ben needed to build and establish a dedicated People & Culture function and establish a clear People Strategy. Ben’s first role was to appoint the Head of People & Culture, Charlotte Coore. Once Charlotte started working at 200 Degrees, he worked in collaboration with Charlotte to support key People projects and the creation of the People Strategy.

Charlotte welcomed the support of working with Ben. “Ben was really easy to get on with and it was great to have someone in the People team with me to feel settled quickly,” she says. “We agreed we didn’t want to roll out the standard HR templates to the company and we often had productive brainstorming sessions which helped us create great people projects that reflected the company’s brand, tone and to build trust in the newly formed People department. He understood what was needed from the People function to add value to the company.”

Stephen agrees: “As we grew, we knew that we needed a dedicated resource to manage our HR, and Ben supported that recruitment process and created a great foundation for the new head of HR, leaving the business in great shape.”

He adds, “Going through this process helped Ben to support multiple people projects such as understanding that employees within our shops would benefit from a career progression pathway, where they can see what they would need to do to get from Barista level all the way to General Manager as it’s important to cater to the younger generations’ development needs. He also created guidance and a new framework to have meaningful conversations which became a new Performance and Development Review for the company to use.”

Co-creating strategic development to drive engagement.

To map out how their people plan should help the business achieve its goals, it was important to understand and gain valuable insights from the whole team.

Ben instigated a People Puzzles Discovery, which involved conducting interviews with a wide cross-section of employees and reviewing the current processes in place. This was especially key, given the vision and desire to ensure that people were always at the heart of the business, so getting their insights was an important part of that process, making them feel involved.

These insights helped Ben identify the people priorities, which he presented back to the leadership team to agree the People Strategy that best supported the business growth plans. Some key pillars of this plan included:

  • Development of 200 Degrees Employee Value Proposition, through listening to employee feedback and understanding competitors benefits, helped to work on a suggestion of benefits the company would value
  • Gender Pay Gap reporting in line with government requirements.
  • Development of an internal communications strategy

“It has been a joy working with the team to bring the essence of how they want to work into their people practices, systems and processes,” says Ben

Strengthening the Leadership team

Any growing business looking to achieve successful growth should review its leadership team to ensure it is correctly structured, with the right skills and roles in place to drive the business forward.

Running some leadership workshops, Ben conducted a structure mapping exercise which included restructuring the leadership team and redefining the roles themselves. These redefined roles helped to renew focus in line with the future plans for the business and ensure everyone was fully on board with the direction the business was heading in.

Delivering a people and culture focus, Ben supported the restructure of the leadership team to create defined roles and responsibilities in line with our growth plans.” Stephen Fern, MD, 200 Degrees


Putting people at the heart of success

Ben has loved working with 200 Degrees. “It is clear they truly believe that people lie at the heart of their success,” he says, “Whether it be a barista serving a coffee or the Managing Director interacting with the employees, the importance of each interaction is treated as equally important.”

If your business has reached that point in its growth journey where it would benefit from some expert guidance on structure, culture and performance and really want people to be at the heart of your business, we’d love to have a chat. For a free 30-minute consultation with an HR Director local to you, please contact us on 0345 646 5201, email [email protected] or fill in our contact form on our website and we will get back to you to follow up.

People Director Ben Birchall
People Director, Ben Birchall

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