Taylor Street Baristas, one of few London specialty coffee roasters and cafe operators to truly broach the mainstream coffee market, is in trouble. The company, founded by Laura, Nick, and Andrew Tolley in 2006, has appointed administrators from David Rubin & Partners to restructure a business that the company describes as “carrying too much debt,” as well as considering a sale, according to Propel Hospitality and London Loves Business.
Taylor Street recently sold the operating license for its eight London cafes to Black Sheep Coffee, a fast growing all-day operator that has pivoted from offering only ‘specialty robusta’ — the cheaper and comparatively inferior in flavour species of coffee that the specialty movement built itself on rejecting, in favour of arabica — to, well, offering arabica too. The company also took out a loan from Black Sheep’s parent company, Conilon, in February 2019; a Taylor Street Baristas employee and a second source close to the company have told Eater that a “missed payment” in the Black Sheep Coffee licensing deal was a contributing factor in the company’s decision to appoint an administrator.
That sale was the latest development in a strategy aimed at bringing specialty coffee to the wider world; Taylor Street has form in building productive partnerships in a mainstream that specialty coffee has regularly tried, and failed, to crack: it sold gateway cafe chain Harris and Hoole to Tesco after opening 50 stores in three years in partnership with the supermarket; it recently signed a deal with catering juggernaut Sodexo to open 400 locations worldwide.
The first Taylor Street cafe, opened in 2006, was a beacon of a nascent coffee scene, at the time focussed on larger, more established roasting companies like Monmouth Coffee and progressive coffee carts; the roasting division opened in 2015. Langton Capital reports that the company last reported numbers for the year to March 2018, in which accumulated losses rose by £750,000 to £3.9 million, placing the company at a negative net worth of just over £2 million. The company has previously raised investment via crowdfunding, but cancelled a planned equity raise designed to “entrench Taylor St as one of the world’s foremost specialty coffee brands” prior to the appointment of administrators.
Chief executive Nick Tolley said:
Sadly, Taylor St Baristas is carrying too much debt, which has affected our ability to raise new capital to support the ongoing development of the business. While the underlying fundamentals of the business remain strong – and our customers and wholesale clients continue to love and engage with the brand – we’ve simply been unable to overcome a balance sheet that’s carrying too much debt.
As founders we’ll do everything we can to support Taylor St Baristas’ licensees and partners and ensure there is no interruption to our customers and people during this administration process.
The cafes and roastery will continue to trade during the restructuring process, which is ongoing. More soon.