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“I’m deeply passionate about culture” — 200 Degrees Managing Director, Stephen Fern

Founded in 2012 as a roastery, 200 Degrees has scaled to a 19-strong café chain with a developing wholesale and e-commerce presence across the UK. World Coffee Portal spoke to Managing Director Stephen Fern about the brand’s growth plans and the importance of fostering a positive team culture 

200 Degrees Managing Director Stephen Fern | Photo credit: 200 Degrees


Stephen Fern became Managing Director of Nottingham-based coffee roaster and café chain 200 Degrees in January 2023, having previously served as Financial Director since 2019. 

Working alongside co-owner and CEO, Rob Darby, Fern oversees 200 Degrees’ operations, growth plans and staff.   

Founded as a roastery in 2012 and opening its first coffee shop in 2014, 200 Degrees has achieved steady growth over the last 12 months, opening its 19th UK outlet in May 2023 and expanding its barista school network, home subscription, e-commerce and wholesale channels. 

How would you describe your first five months as Managing Director?  


I was fairly integrated into the business already as Financial Director and was often found out and about engaging with our teams and customers to understand their frustrations and experiences. The challenges are consistent with what most individuals in my position experience – you are trying to deliver the best outcomes for everyone involved, including our key stakeholders, on top of delivering growth — all while being calm and considered.   


It sounds cliché but leading by example in your behaviour is key, even when it’s not easy. I try to always maintain perspective and hope this comes across to the teams I work with, to foster an environment where they feel safe to develop, learn, make mistakes and do their best to achieve their own objectives. In any business that is growing quickly and is geographically spread it all comes back to how we evolve, embed and maintain our culture. 


My other priority along with culture was creating and aligning a Senior Management Team, which has been critical to improving our ability to execute our plans at speed and to a high level. 

“We have a number of sites already agreed for the next year or so, and we aim to open approximately five shops a year for the next few years”


How are your business channels currently performing? 


We are driving growth across all our revenue streams, with our 19th shop and our 8th Barista School recently opening in Chester, and our 20th in West Bridgford due to open at the end of July 2023. We will open another three shops in this financial year and already have two sites planned for 2025 with more to come. Our wholesale team continue to deliver fantastic growth both in coffee machine sales but also in underlying coffee sales growth.  


Additionally, our online capabilities continue to evolve with our Shopify platform enhancing the customer journey, supporting the growth of online coffee sales and subscriptions. Contributing to progress across each pillar is the continued development of our coffee range, with several single origins from around the world available to complement our house blend. 

200 Degrees opened its 19th coffee shop and 8th Barista School in May 2023 in Chester, UK | Photo credit: 200 Degrees


What role do Barista Schools play for 200 Degrees? 


The Barista Schools were fundamental to the original idea of 200 Degrees Coffee. We always wanted the ability to provide high quality training to educate those who are interested in the world of coffee and those that want to get the best out of their coffee set up wherever they have it, at home or in their place of work.  


The schools are used by a broad mix of people; individuals wanting to learn more about coffee, our wholesale customers, businesses wishing to hold off-site meetings with a bit of fun barista training thrown in, or for team building events. It allows us to break down the perceived barriers to enjoying and understanding our industry, and directly interact with a varied cross-section of our customer base. 

“We will continue to support our communities and protect our planet through our sustainability objectives as we work towards obtaining B Corp status”


How does 200 Degrees champion a positive culture for staff? 


I’m deeply passionate about culture and understand its importance having worked in a few different countries, different industries and varied sizes of company. We drive our culture through a clear understanding and articulation of our ‘why?’, our passion, our purpose: to deliver ‘experiences to remember’ to every person who interacts with 200 in whatever capacity. 


We deliver that by focusing on our core behaviours of being caring, customer-centric and having a can-do attitude. They are embedded in our recruitment, onboarding, training, rewards and recognition. We support our employees with their mental health and well-being through free access to the Calm App, Employee Assistance Helplines and a network of trained mental health first aiders. 


At 200 we also support many local charities and organisations, such as our partnership with Switch Up, a Nottingham-based charity that supports young people to find a path away from offending and reoffending. We have our own Switch Up charity coffee blend where £1 from every kilo sold goes directly to the charity. We sponsor a local women’s cycling team based out of Lincoln and our employees get a paid day volunteering, with the central team covering the roles of the shop teams. We want to do the right thing not just in our company, but in our community. 


What’s next for 200 Degrees?  


We have a number of sites already agreed for the next year or so, and we aim to open approximately five shops a year for the next few years. We are constantly looking at opportunities across the country and will continue to do so. As our CEO Rob Darby said to me in my first weeks in the business four years ago: ‘it’s about the next best one’. 


We will continue to focus on the growth of all our pillars and continue to support our communities and protect our planet through our sustainability objectives as we work towards obtaining B Corp status. We have invested in bringing in some great people onboard to complement to the team we already had, and we are investing in our systems to provide the foundations for significant further growth. 

Stephen Fern is Managing Director of 200 Degrees.

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