Stories of Brave

The perfect blend of coffee and customer service

Stories of Brave’ is a series of real-life stories highlighting the brave people behind businesses in Great Britain; those who have shown strength and courage in the course of their day to day, growing their business and navigating it through the host of obstacles and economic shocks and events that arise. These stories shine light on individuals and businesses demonstrating their dedication, innovation, and commitment to the success of their business.  Here we focus on Bhopinder Singh Gill and his company GK Coffee Group, a Starbucks franchisee.

“The crucial difference that elevates and separates our Starbucks franchise is the way we engage with our customers and the quality of our staff. We are committed to offering only the highest quality coffee and building stores that are inviting and dynamic; while always operating in ways that produce social, environmental, and economic benefits for our partners and the communities in which we do business. Our customers are some of the most health conscious, community minded individuals and we would be nowhere without them, and so they drive everything we do.”

As with many businesses in the food and service sector the impact of COVID-19 has been significant but Starbucks franchisee, GK Coffee Group run by Managing Director Bhopinder Singh Gill has been trading really well.

Bhopinder Singh Gill’s solid work ethic started when he was a teenager working in his family’s Wimpy franchise food and retail business. This experience combined with over 15 years spent in the service industry has helped to develop his management skills as well as achieving a degree in Accounts and Finance. He aspired to become a Starbucks franchisee, joining the coffee brand’s worldwide coffeehouse network. After undergoing an intensive 9 month interview and assessment programme, Bhopinder Singh Gill and GK Coffee Group were accepted as a Starbucks franchisee and the first restaurant opened in Hornchurch in July 2013.

Operating from its Gravesend head office, GK Coffee Group employs over 80 employees and is one of Starbucks selected UK franchisee partners, displaying an excellent track record and rapid growth since inception.  Bhopinder Singh Gill runs the business with his brother-in-law Kulwant Singh Hara and sister Sukhvinder Kaur Hara.

Success was not guaranteed though, but through hard work, determination and detailed business planning and financing, GK Coffee Group was able to build their franchise business. Today they have eight franchises across Essex, Kent, and Lewisham with locations in Hornchurch, Epping, Ilford, Harlow, Sittingbourne, Chatham, Deal and Lewisham. When the UK was put into lockdown in March all GK Coffee Group’s Starbucks venues were closed, putting an immediate hold on income. Bhopinder Singh Gill moved quickly to ensure his business was protected and secured Government support through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS).

 “Setting up a business comes with its challenges but one of the biggest is how to grow and we have been fortunate to have secured our favoured sites, all of which are in great suburban locations. Indeed, this has really come to fore during the current pandemic because our restaurants haven’t been hit by the loss of city centre trade with people working from home,” explains Bhopinder Singh Gill.

Bhopinder Singh Gill continues: “The last few months have affected all business owners and been extremely worrying. We were delighted to reopen recently but we didn’t know what level of trade we would have so I applied for the CBILS with Allied Irish Bank (GB) to provide a safety net for my business. We had been closed for three months and had no idea what demand there would be. We are fortunate to have experienced a good level of trade since we reopened all our sites. The pandemic has highlighted how a business like ours is built on relationships with the local community and why it’s so important to get the right team in every store. Without the furlough scheme we would have struggled to retain all our staff so this has been important as well. There is still a lot of uncertainty around the economy and having the CBILS gives us reassurance in case there is a second spike or lockdown restrictions are enforced again. I feel confident that we have the finance in place to ensure our business is ready and able to survive.”

Allied Irish Bank (GB)  is backing businesses by providing a range of supports and cashflow solutions tailored to your business needs. For further information, visit Allied Irish Bank (GB) We Back Brave.