Guilt Trip coffee chain to press accelerator on ambitious expansion

Adrian McLaughlin and his team at Guilt Trip Coffee. Pictures by Hugh Russell
Gary McDonald Business Editor

A COFFEE shop chain created more than three years ago by ex-Ulster rugby players Darren Cave and Calum Black is pressing ahead with an ambitious expansion plan - despite the sector still being in the grip of government lockdown restrictions.

And it has emerged that hospitality industry veteran Adrian McLaughlin, former general manager of the Merchant Hotel in Belfast and Carton House in Kildare, has also bought into the Guilt Trip business.

Guilt Trip, which pre-Covid billed itself as 'a destination not a coffee shop', opened in 2017 at Orangefield Lane in Belfast, and has since March last year has expanded to High Street in Holywood and The Promenade in Portstewart as well as two other outlets in Worcester.

But Adrian, who also took a financial interest in Corcreggan Mill, a long-established B&B and glamping business in Dunfanaghy, says Guilt Trip now intends to "press the accelerator" on further growth plans.

"We have a Guilt Trip truck being readied for March at Boucher Road, and are currently discussing bringing in an investment partner in London which will allow us to accelerate plans for four more new stores in Northern Ireland this year.

"And we also have discussions ongoing to open in London, Bath, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Bristol and an overall plan to get to 30 stores before we exit the business.

"Already we've gone from a staff of eight in March last year to 44 today, and that number will at least double.

He added: "I'm very conscious of the times we're in, and some may feel it inappropriate us talking up the business when others in this sector are on their knees.

"But ours is an unique little business, with a number of quality touch-points around our coffee and donuts offering, and while any expansion plan at this point may seem daunting, for us it's doable."

Darren Cave said: "Guilt Trip is somewhere you come to even if you don't live local. It's not just a coffee shop it's a brand. We're doing the merchandise like mugs and t-shirts, as we really want to show people it's an experience and buy-in.

"The idea is fairly simple - we're trying to serve up the best coffee and best donuts in Belfast. And to be different, we are a multi roaster coffee shop, so we continually rotate what we have on bar, so you're guaranteed an outstanding coffee experience."

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