M-TECH Autocentre Expands with New Café Concept

A husband and wife team from Darlington have expanded their successful garage business into new territories after investing in a new on site café concept.

Mike and Tiff Cox opened M-Tech Autocentre in December 2015 with the help of TEDCO Business Support after taking over an existing garage and saving a number of jobs in the process. Now, two years later they have turned one corner of the garage into a new café, TJ’s Snack Bar, to provide high quality food and drink options to waiting customers and passing trade.

M-Tech Autocentre, located on Progress Way in Darlington, has gone from strength to strength since opening its doors in 2015. The business has seen strong year on year growth thanks to high levels of repeat business and private recommendations bringing new customers to the experienced team of motor technicians.

The word of mouth success led to co-owner Tiff Cox searching for new ways to differentiate the business from other motor garages in the local area with one area of opportunity making use of the space available in the facility to provide new services for customers visiting M-Tech.

Tiff Cox comments:

“The idea for TJ’s café really came from looking at the space in the M-TECH Autocentre facility and noticing we had space that was under-used for business purposes. A high proportion of our customers come into M-TECH for repairs or maintenance and prefer to wait for the service to be completed. Offering these customers somewhere to seek refreshment whilst they wait seemed a natural way to diversify our offering. As a result, TJ’s café was born.”

M-Tech Autocentre offers customers a range of car maintenance and repair options including MOTs and services. The café now joins this list, providing a range of hot food and drinks for customers to enjoy in the seated area of the café or to take away as part of a food-to-go menu for passing customers.

Tiff continues: “Since we opened TJ’s café we’ve had a real diverse range of visitors including existing customers and people passing by and popping in for a drink. More recently we’ve had business people using the café as a regular meeting place thanks to the relaxed surroundings. It’s been a great addition to the M-Tech offering and we’ve been really pleased with how customers old and new have responded so positively to our expansion.”

Co-owner Mike Cox has 24 years of experience in the motor industry and has worked in the sector since leaving school. Both Mike and Tiff had been looking to establish their own venture for some time before opening M-Tech Autocentre. However, launching their own garage was a risk worth taking and they were recently recognised in the Independent Garage awards held in London as highly commended runners up in the Best Independent Garage in the North category along with runners up in the Best Customer Care in the UK award.

Mike comments: “This is our family business and we wanted to take the time to ensure expansion brings with it what we need from a resource and revenue point of view. In addition to the café, we’ve also just welcomed my brother into the business to offer ECU remapping services designed to help boost the fuel economy and power of existing vehicles – a service we’re really excited about. We are also in the process of recruiting for another technician to expand our team further.

“Tiff and I have been lucky to have the support of Mark Johnston from TEDCO Business Support to provide the help we really needed along the way as part of the Start and Grow programme. His guidance in all elements of running a business and growing our offering has been invaluable”

The initial launch of M-Tech Autocentre was partly funded through a £35,000 low-cost, government-backed loan from Virgin StartUp with opportunities for growth in the business managed and supported via the start and grow programme, delivered by TEDCO.

Mark Johnston, TEDCO Business Support advisor said: “Mike and Tiff clearly have great business acumen and have identified that their business needs to work across all areas. In light of this, they established a new revenue stream within their current facility to provide services to customers in the area looking for refreshment in a pleasant café environment. Particularly impressive was their focus on self-funding their new venture and making it an extra part of their service to give M-Tech the edge over local competition. As always I am happy to be part of their business journey and look forward to continue working with the team at M-Tech in delivering their growth strategy.”

The Start and Grow programme is delivered by TEDCO Business Support in the North East and is supported by the Regional Growth Fund (RGF). The programme is delivered throughout England by Cavendish Enterprise in areas where there are lower levels of business start-up to help new enterprises get up and running and develop new employment opportunities in the private sector with a range of services, including one-to-one mentoring, business planning and helping new ventures get investment ready.

For more information on TEDCO Business Support, please visit www.tedco.org.