In Profile: Tobie Holbrook

By Fiona Scott on 29 August, 2017

Grounded is the brand name of a small, independent group of cafe bars in Bristol and Wiltshire.

It was started by builder and property developer Tobie in 2008, with the aim of providing a welcoming space that would become a focal point for local residents. The cafes started opening in the evenings, serving locally-brewed beer and cider, then began to showcase live music. The community involvement remains central today, the cafes sponsor community events and support several charities. Their latest cafe opened in July in Bradford on Avon.

How did you get into cafes?

Being a builder by trade, when the opportunity came up to purchase a small retail unit in a residential area in Bristol, I jumped at the chance to build my own cafe from scratch.

We used recycled materials as much as possible- the bar is made from old doors, and the furniture is reclaimed- giving Grounded an authentic, down to earth feel. We became licensed in the evenings and started serving local beer and cider alongside stone-baked pizzas. We started showcasing live music and displaying the work of local artists on our walls, cementing us as a central part of the local community.

What do you know about coffee?

From the start we teamed up with local Bristol coffee roasters Clifton Coffee, who source, blend and roast our beans themselves, as well as training our baristas. This means the standard of coffee at Grounded is always exceptionally high.

But we are much more than just coffee – we open until late every day of the week, serving stone-baked pizzas, handmade burgers and our seasonal specials. If you’re lucky you might catch some live music too.

We are more than just a cafe – the seasonal food on our menu uses ingredients sourced from our trusted network of local suppliers, and we serve food until 10pm every night, including our stone-baked pizzas. We showcase
the work of local musicians and artists, and host events
that are suggested by customers, such as quiz nights and tapas tastings.

We do have more of a café culture now. People don’t always want to go out and spend lots of money on a fancy meal, but everyone likes a good coffee with a slice of cake! Creating a welcoming and inviting space for people to enjoy a catch up with friends is at the heart of what we’re about.

Why Wiltshire?

We’ve chosen Wiltshire as a new business base because it’s a beautiful county with lots of tight-knit communities and a sense of history and we want to be part of that. It’s the right fit for us. We have got lots of small independent Wiltshire suppliers on board, such as Sweet Boutique who supply us with gluten-free cakes.

As a serial entrepreneur, who are the key people in your team?

My right hand man is operations director Dan Stanoch. He’s an indispensable part of keeping the day to day business running, putting out fires and making sure everything runs efficiently. I also have a great HR manager – our staff are central to what makes Grounded a welcoming place to be, so we go to great lengths to ensure everyone is happy. Also my marketing support comes from Katie Taylor who cares for and nurtures the brand.

What’s next for Grounded?

I am continuously on the lookout for great locations that would really benefit from the open all hours, welcoming nature of Grounded. Bath and the surrounding areas are on the list, but we can’t reveal too much yet!

What’s next for Tobie, the entrepreneur?

Brewing beer. I have started a brewery with the aim of brewing modern, seasonal beer. We’ve tried the first few batches and they’re pretty damn good, so watch this space…