Smiling faces ready to greet their customers as they enjoy a coffee

Hannah Wood, Zsuzsanna Toth, Natalie Eastham and Livi Aquilina
Hannah Wood, Zsuzsanna Toth, Natalie Eastham and Livi Aquilina
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What started off as a takeaway has turned into a cafe and restaurant. Natalie Eastham explains what it’s like working at Moka Express

Here come the girls... Customers who visit Moka Express in Guildhall Street, Preston, can always be sure of one thing... a smiling face to greet them when they arrive.

The team at the eatery in the heart of the centre is made up of women who fulfil a number of roles, including cooking, cleaning, waiting on and hosting.

There are now four Moka food places in Preston, and the manager of Moka Express has worked her way up the ranks.

Natalie Eastham, 28, has 14 years experience in the catering industry and, after starting off as a waitress at the Moka on Fishergate, she has held various managerial roles. She moved over to take the helm at Moka Express in April this year.

“It started off as a take- away,” she said.

“It didn’t seem as busy as we wanted it to be, so we made it into a cafe, then people starting asking about sitting downstairs, so we renovated that into a dining area, then we thought we might as well make it a restaurant.”

Moka Express – currently number one on Trip Advisor – has taken a modern twist on tapas, and customers can order two mains and one side order for £10.

They are able to take their own alcohol to the restaurant, which opened in November.

The cafe is open six days a week and the restaurant is open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

As well as being the manager, Natalie wears many hats within the business. She does the cooking, taking orders and make sure everything runs smoothly.

The cooking is split between her and Zsuzsanna Toth, and a couple of the other girls are also learning the ropes.

Natalie starting cooking at Moka on Fishergate and was thrown in at the deep end one busy December.

“At the time it didn’t feel like it, but it was probably one of the best things that could’ve happened. It gave me cooking experience I didn’t have before.

“Iain Fowler (the owner of the business taught me everything I know.

“I really enjoy it. Because we make our own desserts, we can experiment.”

“We all get on really well,” says Natalie.

“Some of us have worked together for quite a while.

“Zsuzsanna and I worked together, Hannah is the sister of one of the girls I hired at Moka, and we have a Saturday girl who is 14. We all get on well.

“I’ve always been happy working, so to find a company that will let you have a massive input is quite rare.

“We get to know people. We do build up regulars, especially during the week.

“We have had some people who have eaten at night and come back three times already.”