Published: 17:15, 14 October 2020
| Updated: 17:33, 14 October 2020
A popular cafe franchise is defying the grim economic outlook as it expands into another town just two miles down the road from its flagship Kent store.
Esquires Coffee in Dartford High Street has managed to buck the trend of mass store closures seen throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
Buoyed by increased footfall and spending seen during the roll out of the Eat to Help Out Scheme in August , franchise owner Gurjit Randhawa decided to press ahead with expansion plans.
In August he opened up another larger store just ten minutes down the road in Crayford .
The coffee shop boss said: "The Eat Out to Help Out scheme worked really well for Dartford.
"I thought it would fall off a little bit but we saw a good few weeks after that."
On the new opening in Crayford he commented: "It was a fantastic start – I'm really happy it was taken by people which is the main thing.
"When we started seeing the same faces over and over again I knew I had done something right. Repeat customers make you feel confident you are doing it right."
"It has been easier running two than it has been running one," he remarked, adding workers at his Dartford store had stepped up allowing him to focus on the new venture in Crayford .
He added: "If it continues like this I will expand again."
The Canadian coffeehouse chain has various stores spread across London but its Dartford franchise, opened in March 2017, was the first to reach Kent .
There are now others run by different owners in Bromley , Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells.
But as the potential for added lockdown restrictions rises and footfall starts to level off slightly in the last week, Gurjit says he is aware the Covid-19 situation poses a threat to the cafe trade which is not going away any time soon.
Instead, the barista boss says he is continuing to adhere strictly to enhanced hygiene and safety protocols brought on by the pandemic but is also looking to embrace opportunities as they come up.
And while he says the return to working from home for many London-based workers in recent weeks has harmed the capital's coffee trade, it has added to his.
On this point Gurjit explains he had started to see an increase in millennials working from his shop.
"On any given morning we can have a dozen people here laptops open and working," he said.
"There is so many people working from here we are actually going to make a corner designated to them."
It means just eight weeks into opening he is already redesigning parts of his store with planners due inthis week to redesign a new working area.
He says many arrive at 9am opening and don't leave until three or four in the afternoon, but as long as they are consistently buying, he doesn't mind.
"This [pandemic] is going to be something we are going to be living with for a long time," he said.
"Working trends have changed and we are looking at this and thinking... why not create a space for them?"