We recently caught up with George Rendall, the passionate owner of London-based café Lane Eight Coffee. With two venues, one in East Dulwich and one in Clapham Common, the cafes are relaxing havens among the busy bustle of London, a cosy and friendly spot to pick up a flat white and pan au raisin on the morning commute or weekend stroll. We love the cafes' design and concept, so we thought we'd ask George a little about how Lane Eight Coffee came to be.
Can you share a little bit about your background?
I grew up in Ipswich and Oxford with my mum and two younger sisters. When not being beaten up by my sisters I had two main interests - small business and sport (cricket, rugby and more recently distance running). I got into coffee when I moved to London from university in 2014 and have been working in it on and off for 5 years now. I left a job in management consulting at Accenture to start Lane Eight Coffee in 2019, which is really a blend of my passions for specialty coffee, design and running.
How would you describe Lane Eight Coffee to a friend?
We offer high-end coffee in tranquil spaces. We have two espresso bars in London - they’re designed to give people a moment of calm away from busy life in the city.
Lane Eight is a great space, what was your vision for the brand, to begin with?
The vision stems from our ethos - ‘take the outside lane’ - which is the same now as it was to begin with. Working in the city a lot of people are so stressed out, moving at a million miles an hour, and ultimately burning out - our aim is to be an antidote to that, to help people slow down and live calmer lives. We do that through the spaces we create, the warm conversations we have with our customers and the comfort of a delicious coffee.
What do you think is key to a good cafe design?
For us, given our focus on take away coffee, I think the key is workflow design. All elements - including aesthetics - are obviously important but, if I had to choose one, good workflow design makes life easy for customers and baristas, which in turn leads to consistently high quality product and efficient, friendly service.
To go a bit deeper, efficient workflow comes from removing inefficiencies, so we’re always looking for ways to make things simpler. Our focus is now on how we can do that with technology - early on in the business we took step one and introduced a digital loyalty app but there’s so much more potential in that area.
You have incorporated a handful of George & Willy items through your spaces, what have you used and what do you love about each one?
We’ve used a number of products, in part because we love the products themselves but also because we feel an affinity with the George & Willy brand! We’ve incorporated the outdoor Round Sign at both shops, the Wooden Letter Board and Park Letter Boards, the Chalk Sandwich Board, Standing Sign and most recently the Counter Signs. The main thing we love is that they all match our aesthetic; they’re also very easy to install and durable. Our favourite item is our newest addition - the Counter Signs are an amazing detail on our counter display.
What’s next for Lane Eight Coffee? Any exciting plans on the horizon?
For the next few months, we’re settling in to our new shop in Clapham Common, meeting new customers and getting to know the locals. Our customers in East Dulwich kept us afloat over the pandemic so we’re really looking forward to being there for them as they go back to their offices. We have a running club that restarts in September and some exciting further plans for the business that will be revealed in the Autumn!
What’s one item from your menu we must order?
Our espresso goes great with milk, so keep it simple and go flat white! We have a Rwandan on batch brew at the moment which I’d recommend too.
What's your favorite non-coffee beverage?
A beer brand called Shandy Shack here in the UK do an IPA shandy that I’m into this summer.
Any advice you would give to others wanting to open a café?
The two best pieces of advice I was given are: First if you’re going down the path of being involved in the day-to-day, be clear on the realities of running a cafe. It can be quite tough at the start, often working weekends and early starts, so make sure you’re up for that before going in! The E-Myth by Michael Gerber is a really good book that touches on that and is worth a read. Second is to run your forecasts past a few people who know the industry and who can test your assumptions - if there’s a roastery you know you want to work with then approach them, they’ll be happy to help.