BIGGBY® COFFEE

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 Michigan-headquartered BIGGBY® COFFEE keeps growing and growing.

By Mark Lawton, Knighthouse Media

Some coffee businesses spend their time counting beans. The executives at BIGGBY® COFFEE, however, devote their time to thinking about their franchisees' success.

In the last year, BIGGBY has developed an area representative program for 10 regions where BIGGBY has franchises. “They help generate leads, are involved in the sales process, help owner-operators to open and offer ongoing support,” says Tony DiPietro, director of store development. “We feel we can better support franchises and have better relationships by having a support group that is local.”

The company also started offering a small drive-thru option for franchisees it calls “B-Cubed.” It’s a modular 400-square-foot structure that can be expanded.BIGGBY info box1

The idea came when co-CEOs Robert “Bob” Fish and Michael McFall visited Jakarta, Indonesia. “We went to a modular drive-thru McDonalds,” McFall says. “We brought that idea back. It creates a lower [cost] barrier of entry.”

A brick-and-mortar BIGGBY COFFEE shop initially costs $245,000 plus or minus 10 percent for a drive-thru. A B-Cubed costs around $150,000 plus a fee of $10,000 to $20,000 to set up. The first B-Cubed opened in late November in Alpena, Mich.

Smitten with BIGGBY

Both Fish and McFall have long histories with BIGGBY. Fish worked at a pancake house to put himself through Michigan State University, and in 1991 opened his own pancake restaurant, which he sold in 1993.

He then partnered with Mary Roszel – now retired – to start up BIGGBY COFFEE in 1995.

McFall worked as a sales representative in Houston and then moved to attend graduate school at Michigan State. In 1996, he found work as a barista at the very first BIGGBY COFFEE shop in East Lansing. “Once I began working at the first store, I became smitten with the business,” McFall says. 

Fish, Roszel and McFall decided to switch from company-run coffee shops to franchises and formed Global Orange Development to do so. They opened their first franchise in Okemos, Mich., in 1999.

As of late November, BIGGBY had 232 franchise stores in 10 states with another 46 expected to open in 2019.

In its early years, Fish went searching for the ideal coffee roaster. “When I jumped out of the pancake business and jumped into the coffee business, I went to Seattle and hung out with some people who were really pioneers in the [coffee] industry,” Fish says. “We were getting coffee from micro roasters in Seattle from 1995 to 1999 but in 1999 we needed a less complicated way to get coffee.”

Fish visited more than 20 roasters in the Midwest and settled on one in BIGGBY’s backyard: Paramount Roasters in adjacent Lansing. “They were willing to adopt our procedures for roasting and adopt just-in-time roasting,” Fish says. “You can buy the best coffee around and roast it perfectly but if it’s not fresh, it doesn’t matter.”

Local, Local, Local

Perhaps BIGGBY’s largest advantage over larger coffee chains is local franchise ownership. “I believe if we compete in the marketplace, I think our owner-operators are going to win,” McFall says. “We have local ownership in each marketplace we’re in. I just got an e-mail from the fire chief in Paw Paw [Mich.] about how great [BIGGBY’s] is and how much the owner has done for first responders and how she is willing to do anything and everything to support them. 

“Being a local owner in a local market, it’s easier to connect,” he explains. “You go to chamber meetings, went to the local high school, support all kinds of charities and charitable events. Americans love to support the local owner of a local business.”

The branding profile of BIGGBY also differs from large coffee chains. “We are coffee for everyone,” McFall says. “We are taking coffee to middle America and beyond. And our product, its sits smoother on the palate than Starbucks.”

BIGGBY COFFEE has an array of coffee drinks ranging from the traditional to lattes with names like Peppermint Stick Mocha, Teddy Berry Snickerdoodle, Gingersnap, Buttercup, Wild Zebra,  and Butter Bear. To view the whole list, go to www.BIGGBY.com. There are also freezes, teas, hot chocolate and smoothies along with food options such as muffins, donut holes, yogurt parfait and bagel sandwiches.

Reaching Out

The franchise business is good. The number of stores BIGGBY® has under contract to open in 2019 equals 19 to 20 percent of their existing stores. “It’s very strong,” McFall says.

BIGGBY continues to work on improving communications with its franchisees, notes Abby Bartshe, franchise sales manager. “It’s something we amped up with the owner-operator community,” Bartshe says. “We are constantly surveying and reaching out to them.”

“We feel it’s critical to hear what they have to say,” Fish says, “especially when it comes to innovation and getting their impressions of what we have planned, such as how we introduce new items into the marketplace. We have a marketing advisory council where we bring in owner-operators to the home office to discuss marketing plans and our own version of Shark Tank to let our staff and owner-operators bring in new and innovative ideas.”

People Rule

After almost a yearlong effort, BIGGBY arrived at a collective vision for the company, albeit one that looks beyond profits. “To improve workplace culture in the United States,” McFall says. “It’s something we feel very passionate about.”

The company is off to a good start. The company’s goals is that 90 percent of employees at BIGGBY COFFEE answer “yes” when asked if BIGGBY is supporting them in building a life that they love, McFall says.

Not to say the company is ignoring profits. “We aim to be a billion-dollar company at retail level by the end of 2028,” McFall says. “We believe you can be a highly profitable and successful organization while taking care of people."

 

 

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