Brewed For Success - Business Media MAGS

Sunday Times Franchising

Brewed For Success

Passion for coffee is ensuring that coffee franchises thrive despite current challenges, writes Samantha Barnes.

Entrepreneurs are adaptable by nature and can weather economic storms. Among these are some coffee franchise owners who have posted improved financial results since the lockdown. Amid the maelstrom, vida e caffè was voted Favourite Franchise in the Coffee Magazine Reader’s Choice Awards 2020 – beating out a host of other brands.

Darren Levy

“We are proud of our recent Favourite Franchise award as voted by the public,” said vida e caffè CEO Darren Levy. “Passion means coming to work to make our customers’ and staff’s day better.”

On the subject of passion, vida e caffè franchise owner Justin Fenn says: “The most obvious passion that needs to be created is staff interaction with customers. Staff must be properly trained, incentivised to do well, and have a good working environment.”

Fenn owns three vida e caffè stores in the Western Cape. “Last year (2020) was a year of extreme lows and highs,” he says. “Customers were not sitting in-store; they were walking with their coffee, children, dogs and bicycles.” When customers could return in-store, Fenn noticed a massive upswing in business. “When we reached sit-down service again, we started to show growth over 2019, and then further growth.”

Fenn is looking at his fourth store. “I bought in as I loved the brand and saw coffee was becoming a massive business. I am very happy with my decision.”

Fuelling up

Hitesh Patel, vida e caffè strategic executive, says: “There are countless opportunities across Southern Africa for prospective franchisees. vida is represented through the Shell network in most small towns. One of our partners, Lee Parker, wanted to move coffee from his convenience store and build a vida container on his forecourt. He has since doubled the space due to demand.”

Parker now owns five vida e caffè stores beyond the forecourt and his Caltex store is consistently in the top 10 stores nationwide. “This illustrates the ability for franchisees to grow,” says Patel. “Working together in new, innovative spaces and locations can result in success.”

Hitesh Patel

Metropolises in KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, Tshwane and Port Elizabeth remain underpenetrated,” adds Patel. “There are over 300 stores nationally with room to grow.” The fee for a new franchisee is R100 000 plus VAT and the cost for a new store of 60–100m2 is R1.2-million plus VAT.

Legging it

Bootlegger Coffee Company shares some of the vida approach. Managing director Pieter Bloem says: “We have great coffee, great company culture and a solid team behind us. There is a focus on the environment and sustainability including 100 per cent Rainforest Alliance-certified coffee, biodegradable packaging and a zero-waste drive.”

Bloem says store locations are mostly aimed at creating community. “We aim to deliver a good product and are constantly tweaking operations, design and functionality.”

Vida

Most Bootlegger stores reopened when the country entered level 3 lockdown. “Takeaway trade helps with cash flow, but cannot account for all overheads and bringing our employees back. We need the sit-down trade. TERS was a major role player and we have not had to enter into formal retrenchment programmes. Key lessons are adaptability and constant, clear and concise communication.”

Getting on the map

Bootlegger Coffee Company has 23 stores in the Western Cape and three in Gauteng, with a fourth waiting in the wings. The focus in 2021 will be on Gauteng, while there are still opportunities in the Western Cape. The pipeline for the next three years includes most provinces.

Opportunity abounds for the entrepreneur, says Bloem, who shares the example of an exceptional franchisee: “We have a large-scale franchisee in the Western Cape whom we term a ‘cluster franchisee’. They own and run seven successful Bootlegger stores – all opened in the past 14 months. They have employed their own internal operations and sourced their own sites.”

Bootlegger Coffee Company builds stores for around R2-million–R3-million excluding VAT, size-dependent and accredited with major banks.

COVID-proof dining 

Safe dining in the age of COVID-19 extends beyond improved ventilation and wider spacing between tables – Kloof Street Village is a case in point. Real Foods secured the site in Cape Town a year ago, explains Dean Kowarski, the company’s founder. “Initially, we planned to build a new food hall concept with four separate brands – Nü Health Food Café, Free Bird, Schoon, and Kofi – offering a welcoming, slick and convenient dining experience with a range of options for the local community.”

The pandemic forced Real Foods to radically reimagine the restaurant experience to make customers feel safe. “We considered the details that were becoming important to ensure a safe dining environment: ventilation and air circulation; maintaining physical space between people; outdoor spaces; and technology to facilitate contactless experiences,” says Kowarski.

Real Foods reworked smaller details, which needed to be relevant for the next 10 years. “Features include wraparound fold-stack windows for better air circulation, additional ventilation ducts, outdoor ordering hatches and an outside seating area,” says Kowarski. “While inside seating has been limited for now, there are a lot more seats outside.”

Last contact

The space was designed to allow for contactless takeaway orders and delivery (with a separate entrance for third-party delivery drivers such as UberEats and Mr. D Food to limit the number of people in the store) to drive incremental revenue, explains Kowarski. “We created two ordering hatches outside the store for Kofi and Nü so customers can order without entering the store.

“We also collaborated with technology partners Micros and Datasmith to develop a kiosk and mobile app system for contactless ordering: customers order via the kiosk or the mobile app. Orders can be placed for sit-down or takeaway.”

While none of the stores at Kloof Street Village are franchised (yet), Real Foods Group has franchised stores for Nü, Free Bird and Kauai at other locations.

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