Harris + Hoole: A fake indie coffee shop

Harris + Hoole

Harris + Hoole

When is an indie coffee shop not an indie coffee shop? When it is a fake indie coffee shop masquerading as an indie coffee shop.

A front for Tesco. 49% of Harris + Hoole is owned by Tesco. Is this a minority shareholding but the major shareholder? Not known, as not known who owns the other 51% and Harris + Hoole are refusing to say.

Aggressive expansion. Harris + Hoole is a chain. They have bought up the leases for Clinton Cards in London. The Harris + Hoole in North Street in Guildford is a former Jessops.

Fake authenticity. The name comes from a branding agency. The names Harris and Hoole are two coffee drinking characters in the diaries of Samuel Pepys.

Feb. 3d, 1664. In Covent Garden to-night, going to fetch home my wife, I stopped at the great Coffee-house there, where I never was before: Where Dryden the poet (I knew at Cambridge), and all the wits of the town, and Harris the player, and Mr Hoole of our College. And had I had time then, or could at other times, it will be good coming thither, for there, I perceive, is very witty and pleasant discourse. But I could not tarry, and as it was late, they were all ready to go away.

The Harris + Hoole in Guildford opened a month ago.

I chanced by on its opening day, intending to pop in, though I thought it had opened the previous day. I do not know if it had had a lot of publicity, must have as at lunchtime it was packed. They also had a jazz band playing, and as I Looked in, they told them to turn the noise down.

I had intend to pop back mid-afternoon, but went for a walk along the River Wey and did not make it until early evening, not knowing if they would still be open. Great, they were, the door was open, though I was none too happy with the great big pile of rubbish outside.

I walked in, only to be met at the door and told they were closed.

The sign said 7pm, it was before 7pm, but no, they were closed, it was before 7pm, they had closed at 5pm. It was their first day, it had been a busy day, they were tired, and decided to close early.

In these uncertain times, if you have just opened and you are busy, far from closing early, think yourself lucky, stay open late and pay the staff a bonus.

Today, was my first opportunity to try again.

Although I walked up North Street, and it was to see how busy they were, I was distracted by the market, and forgot to look.

I looked in for afternoon tea.

Downstairs it was not very busy, upstairs, in what they call the lounge it was dead.

The lounge is soft chairs. Too soft. The tables had not been cleared, let alone cleaned, dirty plates, left over food.

I contrast this with Café Mila in Godalming, where empty dishes are cleared away as soon as cleared, and tables cleaned as soon as people leave.

Books on bookshelves, which you were encouraged to swap.

An excellent idea, even better if BookCrossing.

Downstairs, tiny tables, hard seats. Typical fast food thinking, do not let customers get comfortable fast throughput, fast food customer service.

They do not seem to prepare food, a few sandwiches, salad in plastic boxes (not recyclable), plastic cutlery (not wood or steel). In a fridge cold drinks, including cold coffee and tea.

I asked for a freddo cappuccino. I was met with a blank stare. No one had a clue what I was asking for. The baristas may have had some training in making coffee, but they were not experienced baristas.

I explained what a freddo cappuccino was. They said they would give it a try. I also ordered a cookie.

The coffee that was delivered looked disgusting, though to be fair, when I tasted it, it was good coffee. But it was not a freddo cappuccino. But at least they were willing to try, and lacking the right equipment, they were not going to be able to deliver.

The cookie, an oatmeal cookie, was good. Not a factory cookie, as Costa.

I had asked before where their cakes came from, and was told a bakery in London, shipped down daily.

There was not much choice. A muffin, a granola square (that looked like it had come from M&S next door and maybe had) and that was about it. Maybe a larger choice earlier.

The coffee was sourced from Colombia and Costa Rica. Fairtrade, organic? I did not ask, and they did not say and I saw nothing to indicate fairtrade or organic, therefore I assume not.

Toilet downstairs, very primitive, bare copper pipe leading to a very large rectangular sink, the sort of sink Victorian houses had as the kitchen sink, in which to wash the clothes, or ones feet. Upstairs toilet lacked soap.

The one thing I did like about the toilets was black and white photos of Guildford. Whoever took these photos, a very good photographer, with a very good eye. They would make ideal postcards, and I am surprised no one had thought of this, postcards on sale.

The place incredibly overstaffed. The staff pleasant and friendly.

As you walk in, a community notice board. On the wall, the Harris and Hoole pedigree, giving the very false ring of authenticity.

Nowhere any mention of Tesco.

Sitting downstairs was very unpleasant. Hard walls, horrible pop radio station blasting out, noisy espresso machine. Not a pleasant ambience. Not a place to relax or chat. I found it very stressful, and was glad to leave.

The location on North Street is not a good location. No room for tables and chairs outside, and the council should ask them to remover their board which is blocking the highway. They would have been better off down one of the side streets, and no passing traffic.

Harris + Hoole is an improvement on Costa, but is is still a chain, a chain with standardised fare, and much as they try with the fake authenticity, it is still a chain, even worse a chain that is a front for Tesco.

For a real coffee shop, with freshly prepared food and quality cakes, try Glutton & Glee, at the end on Tunsgate, through the arch and just before Ben’s Records. Sadly Milk & Honey, just before the Castle Grounds, appears to have closed.

Also try Café Mila in Godalming.

When news leaked out last autumn that an Harris + Hoole was planned for Whitstable, protesters gathered outside the proposed site wearing Tesco carrier bags on their heads.

Tesco also has a stake in bakery chain Euphorium and owns restaurant Giraffe.

Every little helps.

And just when you think it could not get any worse, Harrison + Hoole is a tax dodger like Starbucks. H+H is owned through a holding company in Ireland, where corporate tax is lower.

14 Responses to “Harris + Hoole: A fake indie coffee shop”

  1. Miss Barnett Says:

    Yet another contributer of hatred towards large chains, unable to adapt their eyes to a wider view, it is unreasonable for someone to decide that due to a large company suppling funds to a smaller one it does not mean it runs the smaller company, Tesco as a company have of course funded Harris & Hoole but nothing more, of course there is going to be no mention within their building of a company that of course is nothing more than a contributor of funds, its quite idiotic that you would think different, as someone who spends their life writing their opinions of establishments, services ect you lack the fundamental information to create such a review.
    Of course as an opinion you are well within your rights to have this view of a company, although i feel you need to get your facts correct before you slander a company, on a regular occasion i have been to Harris & Hoole, I have myself been within this particular establishment in Guildford and i have to say it is the best Cafe within the area, the staff friendly, honest and happy to answer any questions, what other company would offer to make a beverage for a customer if they are no trained to do so? None, the fact they did is something you should praise, you failed to do this, the fundamentals of submitting a review is that you are able to commit to the bad and the good of a situation & establishment, I am sure that if the product produced was not up to your standard they would have replaced or offered you an alternative, you cannot base your dislike for a company because they do not offer the product you want, it would be like me going to Nandos and asking for a rare steak.
    I would also like to point out that you are also comparing to chains like Costa or Starbucks, American companies, that regularly change their recipes to suit them, whilst using the original Italian name, this is a British company, even with their backstage funding via Tesco, maybe they do not offer your particular choice of drink but they are made to perfection, no other similar establishment will recommend times to brew your tea, regularly check the quality of their coffee or make sure your beverage is with you within a tiny time frame, ill go as far to say as when i go to Costa they 90% of the time burn my coffee.
    No companies are without fault i shall admit, i am by no means saying that this establishment is perfect, or any other but i feel your review to be unjust and with huge fault.
    I too visited Harris & Hoole on open day, from what i was told by staff was it was incredibly busy (Which yourself pointed out) and due to this they ran out of stock very quickly and were forced to close.
    I also want to clear something up for you, as i asked myself when i visited is that most of their Organic cakes are made by a local woman by the name of Rachel if i remember correctly and the sandwiches are made by hand.

    Maybe with all of this added information you can submit a review that uses facts, instead of you being hostile due to who funded it, if you don’t like Tesco, don’t shop there.

  2. keithpp Says:

    It is always helpful to focus on facts, not rant. It also helps to read and comprehend what is written.

    On their open day, Harris + Hoole apologised for closing early,and said it was because they were tired, not that they ran out of stock.

    They stated cakes are shipped daily from a bakery in London, cf Costa and Starbucks who sell factory cakes.

    Tesco is not a charity. They have wiped out the small retailer, now they are looking to do the same in the lucrative coffee market.

    It is fair to compare Harris + Hoole with other chains, because they are a chain. It is also fair to compare with indie coffee shops because they are a chain masquerading as an indie coffee shop.

    This pretence is disingenuous, especially when in store is the Harris and Hall story, peddling to the gullible they have a long lineage stretching back to 16th century coffee shops.

    The name Harris + Hoole came from a branding agency.

    People who do not like Tesco, may not wish to drink coffee in a coffee shop that is a front for Tesco, but without being informed, how do they know?

    Tesco is more than a contributor of funds, they own 49% of Harris + Hoole. If there is more than one shareholder for the other 51% of Harris + Hoole, then Tesco is the majority shareholder.

    Why will Harris + Hoole not say who owns the other 51%, why will they not say how much Tesco has invested?

    There is a world of difference to opening a coffee shop to serve quality coffee, to opening a chain to grab a share the lucrative coffee market.

    I have had no problem indie coffee shops trying something new. so far not a single indie coffee shop has said no. But, as I have already noted, Harris + Hoole did try, and I also noted you need the correct equipment, which Harris + Hoole lacked. This was explained to the guys who had a go, it was also explained to them that it takes a lot of skill to make a freddo cappuccino. They were nevertheless prepared to have a go. That is how you learn, acquire new skills.

    I agree, pleasant and friendly staff. If I failed to mention, then an oversight on my behalf, not to be read as unpleasant staff.

    What are the working conditions? Costa, Sports Direct, McDonald’s, employ staff on zero hours contracts. Tesco employs unemployed as unpaid slaves, forced to work for nothing, or lose benefits. Tesco uses agencies to bring cheap labour in from overseas.

    To go in a coffee shop and ask for a coffee, is one would have thought reasonable. The Nando comparison is plain stupid, and simply demonstrates the commentator has very poor taste of where to eat.

    Indie coffee shops will always try something new, listen to what their customers say. A corporate chain has no freedom, simply has to follow the corporate line.

    That Harris + Hoole can do a better coffee than Costa is not saying a lot. To do worse, would be to serve ditchwater.

    Costa is not an American company. It is British, owned by Whitbread. Whitbread also own Premier Inn and Beefeater Grill.

    Instead of ranting, I suggest get out and about a bit. I have been in tea shops with a large selection of quality teas, and yes, they will tell you the optimum time to brew.

    Sunday in Cafe Mila in Godalming, where they are always willing to try new things, cheerful staff, highly skilled baristas,and all their food and cakes freshly prepared and made, and unlike Harris + Hoole, they clear the tables.

    For coffee, try Stokes on High Bridge, who also roast their own coffee. For tea, try, Pimento Tea Rooms, who have a large selection of excellent teas.

    I agree a review should be fair and balanced, the good and the bad, which is what was written.

    Before ranting, it is wise to know what you are talking about, otherwise you make yourself look a fool.

  3. Miss Barnett Says:

    I did no ranting what so ever, a rant would have been me updating my site talking about how you are a total twit, i did not do this.

    The Nandos comparison is valid, they serve food do they not? It is something they do not offer, why should they cook it for me? if they did would i have any right slander them for not making it up to scratch? I doubt it.
    Harris & Hoole serve coffee, just not the coffee you were expecting, i see you have also walked out of other establishments in ‘disgust’ for not serving what you wanted, i have worked in the catering industry for many years, so i am aware what lengths companies go for their customers, of which im sure Harris & Hoole did go beyond the typical coffee shop, which i am now impressed you are willing to praise the staff on this. I was also stating that Starbucks was an American i do apologize if this did not come across as the fact i was stating.
    As for Tesco funding the company it still does not mean they own or have a say in the company, i never said they were a charity either, of course they will get funds back profit wise but does this mean they pull the strings? I would like to see your facts showing that they do because everything points to they don’t.

    I merely cleared up some facts you seem to have lacked and said as a reader my thoughts on your review the fact you have become hostile is quite typical going by your reviews. My suggestion for you is to balance your reviews in the first place, which you did not, if you have an issue with the establishment especially one so young, they are not even a year old yet, talk to the manager and just give them a friendly heads up, how can companies grow without customer feedback? And please for your own sake do not just believe what you read in the news papers, otherwise the world will be a bleak place for you, which would be very sad.

    The fact you have then so openly called me a ‘fool’ and telling me to ‘get out’ means i most defiantly will not be spending my time trying to educate your small closed mind and most defiantly will not be recommending this website to anyone thats my review of you.

    Its a shame you hate Tesco so much it warped your mind against such a young company, can i suggest if you hate Tesco so much don’t go to any company they are affiliated with? Would save us all a one sided review and you having to write it.

    This is all i am willing to say on the matter debates are acceptable, name calling is childish playground behavior, so this seems to have been a waste of my time, obviously you are the only person who is able to have an opinion without being met with hostility.

    Good day.

  4. Miss Barnett Says:

    I do apologize i forgot, i do thank you for your recommendations of other establishments of were i can get my tea & coffee.

  5. keithpp Says:

    To reiterate once again, Tesco own 49% of Hollis + Hoole.

    If people wish to boycott Tesco (and with good reasons), they are free to do so, but difficult to do so when a company does everything possible to hide the Tesco connection, and creates a fake impression it is an indie coffee shop, when in reality is an aggressively expanding chain 49% owned by Tesco.

    Why not be up front and honest, rather than try to create the impression there is a lineage dating back to 16th century coffee shops?. Why hide the Tesco connection?

    And for those who may wish to support Tesco, use their Tesco Card and gain a few worthless points on their Tesco Card, can they use their Tesco Card. Er, no.

    The Nando comparison was idiotic. That is like going in Food for Thought in Covent Garden Garden and asking for burger and chips, or going in the Guildford Institute and asking for a meat dish.

    To go in a coffee shop and ask if they are able to provide a requested coffee is reasonable. I have yet to find a coffee shop that finds the request unreasonable.

    Harris + Hoole did not find the request unreasonable. I explained how it was made, but also said they would not be able to make it, as they liked the correct equipment, plus it is a skill to be able to make.

    The fact Harris + Hoole is not serving freddo cappuccino, an ideal drink on a hot summer’s day, says much about the company as purveyors of coffee, and if nothing else, a lost marketing opportunity.

    To correct a large number of errors is not being unfair to you. Nor is suggesting you know what you are talking about before posting comments.

    Please try the places listed, you will then be able to sample quality coffee, in a real indie coffee shop.

  6. keithpp Says:

    Appalling food waste by Harris + Hoole

  7. tearsofbloodinmyheart Says:

    hi thanks for the heads up when they invade my part of the world i shall avoid….

  8. keithpp Says:

    Ha ha, a visit from Harris + Hoole to Cafe Mila in Godalming. After two days training, know better than Cafe Mila how to make coffee.

    Unlike Harris + Hoole, Cafe Mila in Godalming is an indie coffee shop, somewhere where they know about coffee, serve delicious food and cakes.

  9. Will Gill Says:

    Hi Keith, would love you to come to our little coffee shop in Guildford when you’re next around. We’re Coffee Culture and we’ve been in Angel Gate, Guildford for 14 years and were open long before the chains took hold of our high street and before a marketing agency came up with Harris + Hoole.

    We work really really hard for every customer, we take pride in everything we make and sell and want every customer to leave happy in the knowledge that they’ve eaten and/or drunk something delicious and that they are supporting a true independent coffee shop which in turn works hard to source as many of its produces from within the local area. We’ve been using local bakers and cake makers since we opened and are always talking with our customers about what they like and dislike.

    Good luck in your quest and support for good independent coffee.

  10. keithpp Says:

    To be fair to Harris + Hoole, they serve excellent coffee and have very pleasant staff, and they are in a different league to the chains.

    I was not aware Coffee Culture has been in Guildford so long.

    There was a Coffee Culture in Aldershot, in The Arcade, until like all the other local businesses, they got kicked out. Was it the same as the one in Guildford?

    • Will Says:

      Richard Hinckley who set up Coffee Culture started in 1999 in Guildford and then opened Aldershot a couple of years later. My wife and I bought the Guildford business in 2003 and he sold the Aldershot business to someone else. That has now sadly folded.

      When we took over the shop in 2003 we only had a handful of chains to contend with however they are now everywhere. For your information Cafe Nero are about to open this week a massive shop opposite French Connection next to House of Fraser. It’s huge!

      Our shop had a lovely makeover in March this year and looks very different to what you may remember. Click on our website to have a little look around or better still pop in and say hi! My name is Will and my wife (Claire) and I have owned it since 2003. Best wishes…

  11. keithpp Says:

    Not good news to hear Caffe Nero are opening a massive shop in Guildford.

    I have never understood why anyone goes in these awful chains. It clearly is not because they like coffee.

    Chains are destroying the heart and soul of our towns, the sense of well-being.

    I get very annoyed with the hypocrites on the Guildford farmers market. On the one hand, they wish us to support them (which I am willing to do), on the other hand, why are they buying coffee from the chains.

    In Godalming, I see people walking down the street to get a coffee from Costa or Caffe Nero, and back again, in doing so, they walk past Café Mila. I wonder why, why walk past a good coffee shop to buy rubbish coffee? I am tempted one day to ask.

    I am pleased to say, Café Mila is usually busy, they serve excellent lunches, their own cakes for afternoon tea.

    I must admit, I have of late, got into the habit of going into Harris + Hoole, mainly because nowhere else is open after 5pm. I would not though be seen dead in any of the chains. I also have to admit, they do an excellent coffee.

  12. Paul Says:

    I went into H&H in Tesco’s Sunbury around 3 weeks after it opened, first impression it looked kind of cool/different, i ordered straight coffee and something(can’t remember exactly) from the large chalk board, to satisfy my hunger, after 5 minutes searching the screen on the till, the young lady had to ask a person in charge to find, still waiting, they explained that wouldn’t be served after a certain time, would i try something different. So my first impression was a little quashed, food arrived, average, coffee good
    It’s been a good few months, lets give it another try, i asked the guy behind the counter what else was there available (cooked) apart from english breakfast, i’ll try cheese and tomato on bloomer toast, (bit pricey at £3.75, but thought, hey ho) he couldn’t find cheese and tomato on toast on the screen, finally found it, ordered a mocha to go with it, which promptly arrived at my table, 5 minutes later, what can only be described as, i’m going to take £3.75 from you sir, drop your pants down and smack you on the backside, turned up, a small plate, with two slices of slightly darkened bloomer bread, with one slice overlapping the other, then carefully grated (probably passed the grater over both pieces as to sprinkle over both slices, meaning the bottom slice only had the top edge with cheese on) and 2 carefully placed cooked, cherry tomatoes and a spoonfull of rocket, total price for my pathetic excuse of breakfast and coffee, £6.45, the to top it all, whilst i was sitting at my table one of the managers came over with a young assistant and demonstrated to her how to clean the glass panels behind my head with a spray and a cloth……guess what……i won’t be going there again, Harris and Hoole….wake up and smell the coffee, coz it ain’t workin

  13. keithpp Says:

    A big mistake opening in Tesco, but probably part of the deal when Tesco own 49%.

    If shopping in Tesco, the last thing you want is to relax with good coffee, you want to get out and go home because the experience is so bad

    Pile em high sell em cheap, is the antithesis to quality.

    Other big mistake, is emphasis on massive expansion, not only within Tesco, but also airports, railway stations, eg Stanstead and Euston.

    Harris + Hoole Guildford is well run, excellent coffee, the staff take a pride in their work, in many ways, it sets the standard for indie coffee shops, who I fear will suffer, not the chains like Costa and Starbucks and Caffe Nero, but ultimately it will be destroyed by greed and the moronic stupidity of trying to create a brand identity.

    Already the chalk back wall at Harris + Hoole Guildford has been destroyed by an eyesore. This would be like some worthless council jobsworth painting over a Banksy.


    Another example of corporate stupidity, girls sent down to Guildford to hand out leaflets to visist the coffee shop Friday lunchtime when it is packed. Not the work of the local staff, they have more intelligence.

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