IT may sit opposite two coffee chain giants, but one independent company has proved it is possible to compete against the big guns and win the praise of its customers.

The Workhouse Coffee Company, which has cafes in King Street and Oxford Road, has been nominated for a Reading Retail Award.

Customer Henrietta Bailey labelled it My Favourite Coffee Shop saying: "It's great to see an independent flourishing in a market so overwhelmed by chains - they offer great food, drinks and service."

The Workhouse Coffee Company was set up in Oxford Road eight years ago, opening a second base in The George Hotel in King Street three years ago, opposite global chains Costa Coffee and Starbucks.

Managers pride themselves on the fact the cafes adopt an international feel, sampling coffees from around the world and employing people from different cultural backgrounds including Romania, Ethiopia, Germany, Hungary and Japan.

Manager Eva Fels said of the 11 full and part time staff: "It's quite interesting hiring people from all over the world because they all bring something different to the business. We get staff to interact with customers and build a relationship with them. They are all outgoing and if you have to talk and answer in another language you have to make a bit more effort."

Managing director Greg Costello, an Australian himself, set up the company as part of a personal quest to find a good cup of coffee in the town.

He now searches for different beans and roasts them himself. The company does not rely on advertising or marketing but opts to promote its cafes through word of mouth.

To nominate your favourite coffee shop, Shop I Cannot Live Without, Restaurant of the Year or Service With A Smile recognising a good shop assistant, retailer or worker, visit or pick up a nomination form in stores or at The Broad Street Mall and The Oracle - organisers of the awards supported by The Reading Chronicle and