London café chain Apostrophe is getting ready to celebrate 10 years in business. Founder Amir Chen spoke to Janie Stamford
How will you be celebrating a decade in business? We want our guests to know we've been around for 10 years, but still managed to stay fresh and current. We've always been innovators and intend to continue to be.
We were among the first in London to train our baristas to make proper Italian coffee and our Shoreditch store was the first in London to introduce communal seating, now a "must have" at trendy cafes across town. To celebrate we've launched a number of promotions, a loyalty card and our "birthday poem for Apostrophe" competition in tandem with National Poetry Day.
How has the business changed since it launched? We've become a lot less rigid and more guest-focused. We used to be overly purist about our coffee - no soya or skimmed milk, no chocolate powder. We now give our guests the choice.
We've also extended our menu offer to include some UK favourites like porridge, stews and salads, which sit nicely alongside our sandwiches and fresh pastries.
Finally, we've changed our name to be more democratic - gone is the French pronounced Apostrof, replaced by the English Apostrophe.
What are your plans for the next 10 years? Continue to innovate, offer uncompromising standards of food and drink, become a destination of choice in our sector.
We are lucky not to have a gun pointed at our head, and can manage our growth at a rate we are comfortable with - that allows us to maintain our standards.
What prompted the move into hospitality from a career in investment banking? It was a passion of mine for many years. I recollect many times peering through the plane window on a business flight imagining my hospitality venture. I was an alert hospitality consumer and thought I'd have a good eye as an operator.
Would you have made the leap in today's economy? I believe so. There is proof on the high street that well-managed and correctly targeted brands are to some degree resilient to economic downturns.
We've survived the recession of 2008 and have the strength to take on a potential future downturn.
My City background has been invaluable. Investment Banking is a great "school" for life. It taught me the importance of analysis, focus and articulating ideas.