Canadians are big fans of coffee, with coffee the most consumed beverage in the country: according to the Canadian Coffee Association, 72 per cent of Canadians aged 18-79 drank coffee the previous day. But these coffee consumers are looking for more than just a caffeine fix; they’re also looking for a premium experience that helps to connect them with their communities. That’s where Canadian coffee franchises come in.
Here, Franchise Canada highlights three coffee franchises that are resonating with their communities across the country.
Good Earth Coffeehouse
Imagine that one of your baristas is such a hit with customers, that one of those customers composes a song in their honour. That’s exactly what happened a couple of years ago during a national barista contest held at the Good Earth Coffeehouse at the Alberta Children’s Hospital, where customers voted for their favourite barista across the chain through social media. Not only was a barista, named Thomas, the overwhelming winner, but one customer was literally singing his praises.
“It demonstrated to us that even in a hectic, fast-paced environment such as a hospital, being part of your customer’s community means a great deal to them,” says Gerry Docherty, Good Earth Coffeehouse president and chief operating officer.
Good Earth Coffeehouse describes itself as a ‘Coffeehouse with Good Food’ serving ethically traded coffees paired with delicious, wholesome foods prepared on site, in a warm, community environment.
The franchise was founded in Calgary in 1991 by Michael Going and Nan Eskenazi, who wanted to open a business reflecting their appreciation of great coffee, simple wholesome foods from family recipes, and community and environment they felt didn’t exist in the market.
“The benefit to Good Earth customers is they can get something delicious and wholesome to eat with great coffee and feel good about their purchase because of Good Earth’s environmental and social initiatives,” says Docherty.
The franchise is expanding in central and eastern Canada and is increasing the number of locations in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.
Docherty says the biggest benefit for franchisees is they join a well-respected brand and can leverage 28 years of experience and operational systems. “They’re getting into business for themselves, but not by themselves. The challenge is we’re in a competitive environment and to be successful, you must be committed to managing your business and taking care of your customers.”
Ideal franchisees, says Docherty, have a very strong affinity for the pillars the Good Earth brand stands for – sustainable coffee, fresh and wholesome food, community, and the environment. Franchisees go through an extensive five-week initial training program and receive the support of an opening team, which helps them commission, train staff, and open their store. Ongoing support from the operations team and marketing professionals, along with ongoing training programs, is also provided.
Docherty’s advice to franchisees who want success is, ” To start, find the right franchise that fits with your lifestyle and values. From there, follow the proven system, embrace your customers, and have fun.”
Then be prepared to sit back and listen to the music.
What’s the best way to know how to really help franchisees and run a great franchise? You can own one yourself, like Maria Elisii, Café Depot brand vice president for The MTY Group, who owns her own Café Depot franchise.
“Some of my team, including myself, own a Café Depot franchise,” says Elisii. “What makes us unique is we really understand the logistics of the operations and the market. When we support our franchisees, we’re hands on and we’re present.”
Elisii’s franchise location is, in fact, the first Café Depot established. It was her uncle and her father who started Café Depot in 1994, selling the company to The MTY Group in 2014. Elisii kept her franchise location. “I’ve stayed all this time because it’s sort of sentimental to me. I’m a good example of a franchisee,” she says.
Now with more than 55 Café Depot locations, the company started with a specific idea in mind. “At the time, there were not many specialty coffee shops, so that’s where the brand was inspired. The idea was to have the best quality coffee, freshly roasted, ground daily, and served with a great-tasting dessert. My father, an immigrant from Italy, wanted to bring that European flavour to this concept.”
The benefit to customers, says Elisii, is, “We’re constantly on top of trends. Every season, we add new and unique options to our menu. Right now, plant-based drinks and iced teas are very popular, and we’re still offering that premium coffee we promised back in the 90s. Today, we have a full breakfast and lunch menu prepared fresh daily, and focus on sustainability and transparency.”
The biggest challenge for franchisees is the shortage of employees and skilled workers. Elisii says the benefit is having competent people in management. “We’re a small team, but some of us have been in the company for over 20 years. Being a part of the MTY family gave us many advantages – we are a large organization with more resources, but we kept the values that our company was founded on.”
The ideal franchisee needs to have a good work ethic and be present for daily operations. “It’s not just an investment; you need to put in the hours and be dedicated,” says Elisii.
The franchise offers five weeks of training, before and after opening. The company plans to expand to smaller towns outside of the Montreal area in Quebec and the Ottawa region. Elisii’s advice to franchisees looking to succeed? “With the advances in technology, you can click your phone and a coffee will be delivered to your door, but nothing can replace that in-person experience. In my opinion, personability will always be the key to a successful business.”
Second Cup Coffee Co.
If you’re familiar with the Second Cup Coffee Co., you’re not alone. The company, which is the only Canadian-owned specialty coffee retailer in Canada, started in 1975 as a kiosk in a Toronto shopping mall. From there, it’s grown to 243 Second Cup locations across Canada in key cities like Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal.
“In 2019, we’re proud to note that Second Cup was ranked the #3 most trusted restaurant/takeout brand in Canada by the Gustavson Brand Trust Index,” says Kareen Pollard, director of franchising at Second Cup Coffee Co. “The Second Cup concept works beautifully in a wide range of venues, from downtown street front locations, to shopping centres, to strip malls, as well as drive-thru full-service cafés.”
The company’s in-house real estate team sources high-quality locations, signs the head lease, and sublets these locations to franchisee partners. “We also have strong brand presence in non-traditional retail sites such as hospitals, universities, airports, train stations, community centres, and gas stations,” says Pollard.
When it comes to the benefits to customers, “Our coffee is incredible – we source 17 different kinds of premium, specialty coffee beans, and use only the top two per cent of beans from every country we’re in. And all of our delicious pastries are baked fresh and delivered to our cafés daily, never frozen,” explains Pollard.
Benefits to franchisees include good coffee and a strong brand with lots of support. Pollard says the challenge is being ready to meet the unique needs of a food and beverage business. “Quality control, supply chain management, and staffing can be complex, and the Second Cup standard is high.”
The ideal franchisee needs to be committed to being an active owner-operator, with a desire to be involved in the community. Retail or restaurant experience isn’t necessary, but a minimum of five years in business management and sound understanding of financials is a must, as well as a passion for coffee.
Franchisees undergo a four-week training program, a trip to Costa Rica, and have excellent marketing support. “My number one piece of advice for our franchisees is to be active owner-operators – that is where we really see them finding success within our system. It really shows when they have a deep passion and enthusiasm for coffee and engage their local communities, delivering on that premium coffee experience we want for our consumers,” outlines Pollard.
Second Cup Coffee Co. is currently looking to expand across the country.
By Georgie Binks