Our signature brews and vibrant easy-going brunch is internationally inspired with a particular nod to our Antipodean cousins. Sure, the weather isn’t as sunny but the personalities are.
years and counting...
Pot Kettle Black was founded by Jon Wilkin and Mark Flanagan, professional rugby league players and best mates. Inspired by Mark’s time playing in Australia and spending more time and money than he should on Sydney’s uber-chic coffee scene. The pair played together at St. Helens with them bonding over a love of food and drink (mostly served in pint glasses rather than espresso cups). The lads found themselves in Manchester looking for good coffee that isn’t served in the soulless, generic chains that flood the high street. Options were few and far between so it was decided that they should open their own coffee shop as it ‘can’t be that hard to do’. Careers in professional sport are often short lived and both were aware that a retirement plan would be needed that didn’t involve REAL work, based on a building site or stuck at an office desk.
A potentially career ending injury in 2013 meant that Mark had time on his hands and facing the prospect of needing a new profession. A business plan was written and the search for the first Pot Kettle Black began. Unsurprisingly there wasn’t much of an appetite from Manchester’s commercial landlords to give prime retail space to a couple of immature rugby players with zero experience working in hospitality or running a business. Fortunately a brave landlord decided to take a punt on Mark and Jon and gave them an opportunity in the beautiful Grade II listed Barton Arcade. At the time the arcade was semi-derelict and desperately in need of some TLC.
Mark and Jon knew they needed to hire some people that knew what they’re doing and so a small team was formed. Headed up by legendary barista and all round great guy Goncalo Cid who had only recently moved to Manchester from the Algarve (what a strange decision). Goncalo or ‘G’ as he’s affectionately known still works for the business to this day and is a big reason why PKB is what it is.
The coffee shop opened in October 2014 – a week before St. Helen’s won the Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford in front of 75,000 people. More importantly, Pot Kettle Black opened with a simple menu of specialty coffee supplied by Workshop alongside house made sandwiches and brownies. When the doors opened the tumbleweed followed. For the first few weeks the only customers were friends and family donating their hard earned money towards the lads random venture. However before long strangers started visiting and regular customers emerged. Weekends became busy and the queues started forming.
Two years later the the site expanded, a proper kitchen built and brunch was served. From savoury breakfast favourites such as poached eggs and avo on toast and eggs benedict all the way to decadent sweet dishes like blueberrry french toast. The menu was as varied as it was delicious and one of the first of its kind in Manchester. From there the 2 overly ambitious owners thought, why stop at just coffee and brunch, let’s add a bakery in to the mix. In 2018 a mini bakehouse was squeezed in to the back of Barton Arcade. A crack team of bakers was recruited specialising in sourdough and viennoiserie in a space that is best described as cosy and intimate.
A second Pot Kettle Black launched in the same year in the busy business district of Spinningfields catering for the suits of Manchester. A loyal and consistent customer base was formed until Covid hit 18 months after opening and 95% of customers were told to work from home. The keys were given back before that damn tumbleweed returned.
By 2019 the teeny weeny bakehouse had now grown some legs. After solely supplying the PKB high street sites, wholesale enquiries came in. Extra baked goods were made and were delivered by a friendly chap called Pavel in the basket on his bike. The Barton Arcade bakehouse quickly became too small and a stand alone bakehouse was acquired on the edge of the city. More wholesale accounts came in and a retail element was introduced at the bakehouse during lockdown. Special breads and bakes were available to buy directly when the shutter door was lifted and queues formed that would put a J. K. Rowling book signing to shame.
In summer 2021, another Pot Kettle Black site opened in a swanky residential development at Angel Gardens, an area which flirts on the borders of Ancoats and Northern Quarter. Just a few months later a site was opened in Terminal 2 of Manchester airport in partnership with HMS Host. The airport wanted to have more of a Mancunian feel from its F&B operators and PKB was only happy to oblige.
Around the same time the bakehouse was deemed worthy enough to have its own name and was christened ‘Half Dozen Other’ – a traditional yet reimagined bakehouse selling classic bakes with modern takes. Its home began bursting at the seems yet again so a bigger unit was needed to meet the growing demand. Finally in 2023 this was found at Redbank close to Victoria station in Manchester City centre. An ugly 5,000 sq.ft warehouse was transformed into what has become known internally at the Pink Pastry Palace. Supplying the best baked goods to the wonderful people of Manchester and surrounding areas.
What the future holds, nobody quite knows. Global domination is obviously the goal, all whilst winging it as Pot Kettle Black has always done…