As Caribou Coffee’s first franchise manager, Matthew Walls felt it was important to meet the teams that ran the cafes “in their own element” and start building good relationships. He spent a week traveling through Bosnia, Egypt and Turkey while getting to know the executives of multi-unit Caribou Coffee owner One Franchising, which has just opened a new location in Izmir, Turkey.
While there, Walls was able to compete in the Franchise Group’s Barista Championship in Turkey, where 17 contestants pitched unique beverages to a panel of 10 judges, including Walls, Caribou CEO John Butcher, Turkish operations executives of One Franchising and two local influencers.
“It just goes to show that no matter what country you’re in or what language you speak, the same passion for creating great coffee drinks transcends it all,” said Walls, who joined Caribou in July. after leading global development at CKE Restaurants for a year. . Prior to that, Walls spent 15 years at Domino’s in various roles, most recently as Global Senior Vice President.
Caribou has about 460 stores in the United States, 322 of which are owned by the franchisor, and the rest are owned by franchisees in non-traditional locations, into which Walls said the coffeehouse chain will continue to expand. Worldwide, Caribou has nearly 275 franchises. stores in nine countries.
Walls noted that the company was in a “unique position with Panera Brands’ pending IPO” which has been put on hold. This follows the 2021 decision by Caribou’s parent company, JAB Holding Co., to combine Panera Bread, Caribou Coffee and Einstein Bros. Bagels under a new umbrella company, Panera Brands.
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“Having been in pizza for the past 15 years, coffee is a new thing for me, so being able to ask questions specific to coffee in the industry has made it easier to fit in,” Walls said, noting that he appreciated to be able to convey ideas to his peers. concepts from other Panera brands.
As a Minnesota-based Midwest brand, Caribou’s franchise expansion plan is to “radiate from centers of influence” to optimize supply chains and franchisee talent, said Walls.
The cafe chain hasn’t released targets for the number of franchise stores it hopes to open, but it is targeting multi-unit restaurant operators who want to open at least 10 cafes in the Midwest and Southeast. Similarly, Caribou will use its strong presence in the Middle East as a hub to expand into North Africa and beyond.
“As the brand matures, I’m sure we’ll also attract more franchisees internationally,” added Walls.
Caribou CEO John Butcher previously told Franchise Times that the brand “is focused on quality partnerships and finding the right franchise partners who have sophisticated experience in multi-unit operations and who share our core values and our vision”. Caribou plans to continue to develop corporate stores alongside franchise expansion.
Pioneering a new role in a not-so-new brand
Walls saw no harm in being the first to hold his title of franchise manager at Caribou. Instead, he sees a growth story about to unfold.
“Caribou is not an emerging brand. It’s been about 30 years and people love Caribou,” he said. “We know how to operate it profitably, which is a huge advantage over any company that might try to franchise from the start. We already have this knowledge,” including his own wisdom gained from previous experiences.
At CKE, Walls learned how to reinvigorate a more mature brand by leading a revitalization effort, which included implementing renovations, new technology and a customer service initiative. At Domino’s, Walls learned to “speak like a franchisee”.
“I have a deep affinity for small business owners. That’s really what gives me my power,” he said. “Keeping franchisees in great health reciprocates that health for us.”
Walls will take the lesson he learned from moving too fast at previous brands to Caribou, where he plans to “go a little slower to go fast, and take a little longer to calculate steps.” I think it’s smart for us to make sure we’re building deep relationships with our franchisees and understanding what their capacity for growth is so that we go at a pace that’s comfortable for all of us.
He also noted the strong recognition of the Caribou brand which can be attributed in part to its non-traditional growth as well as sales through K-cups and whole bean coffee in grocery stores and online.
“We already have the seeds of growth in the market.”
From the franchisees’ perspective, the ability to choose from different models will help attract new owners, especially those who want an optimized drive-thru and pickup-only model.
After adding the additional title of CEO in January 2019, Butcher led Caribou’s rollout of the Caribou “Cabin” prototype, a drive-thru-only model with a significantly smaller footprint ranging from 550 to 600 square feet, compared to the traditional “Chalet” full cafe model 1,600 to 1,800 square feet.
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“We’ve been operating this way for 30 years, and we’re able to provide the training and sophistication necessary for franchisees to operate successfully,” Walls added. “All of these pieces together is one big love story and an incredible journey for this brand as we take something people love in the northern Midwest and bring it to people around the world.”
Including franchisee fees, the total franchise investment for a “Cabin” cafe ranges from $446,100 to $732,300, while a “Chalet” model costs from $722,100 to $1.15 million. , according to the Caribou FDD. Meanwhile, a non-traditional “Kiosk” version costs between $249,100 and $606,300.