A coffee break with...

Edward Parkes
Director and co-founder, The Gentlemen Baristas

What does your job typically entail?

A bit of everything! Henry [Ayers, co-founder] and I are still very involved in the day-to-day running of our business. I tend to focus a lot more on the numbers and budgeting – the boring bits! – but I also like to be involved in concept development.
One of our main areas of focus is about upholding the values of the business and ensuring we have a great culture that represents and supports our purpose. It’s something that never really ends and you can always do better.

How did you get into the industry?
I started out in one of my first part-time jobs as a teenager. I thought being a barista was really cool. My older brother was a barista and so I thought it looked like fun…I didn’t have a clue how to make coffee though! Eventually It became a bit of an obsession. Exploring different coffees is such a great hobby, and seeing how you can influence the taste by altering the variables is incredibly exciting. 

What’s your favourite part of your working day?
I like my thinking time. It’s so easy to be ‘busy’ when running your own business. Stopping to think and solve problems is incredibly important. Seeing a process that makes your business more efficient take shape is incredibly pleasing and it normally begins as an idea over a cup of coffee. 

And your least favourite? 
Anything I need to do for the accounts. We have a fantastic accountant, Natasha, who has been with us since day one. She’s very patient with us!

What’s your favourite food and beverage?
Where to start with this one! If we’re talking our menus, then I love a good sandwich. A well-constructed sandwich is a piece of art. Right now I have a craving for an epic cheese and pickle sandwich, so let’s go with that. Strong mature cheddar, homemade pickle and a fresh, crisp green leaf of some kind. 
In terms of beverage, it has to be coffee. If it’s the morning then I’ll always go a flat white. Then afternoon, I love filter coffee, made either as batch brew or an individual pour over.

And your least favourite? 
I’m not very fussy, I’ll eat and drink most things. I can’t stand though, and I get stick for it, fresh ginger. It tastes like soap!

What is the biggest factor currently affecting the industry?
Obviously, the last year has presented numerous challenges. Central London is still seeing very low footfall, especially in areas where people once commuted to work. Central London needs to reinvent itself if people don’t come back to offices.
But, as I’m sure every corner of the industry is currently finding, staffing is the biggest problem. We’re lucky that we have some amazing members of staff, but putting teams together for the new sites is proving difficult. 

What one piece of advice would you offer someone working in the industry?
Have patience. Change for the better takes time. Having been terrible in the past at trying to achieve perfection with every project and losing interest if it we didn’t get there, we now try and approach things with the ambition of continuous improvement, no matter how small. Get 1% better each week and in a short time you will have made a huge difference. Follow the Kaizen philosophy!

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