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Columbus Coffee works hard to help franchisees stay ahead of the trends
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Columbus Coffee's new-look cafe design has proved a hit with local fans and new customers alike
Jigisha & Dannee Patel with Columbus Coffee's MD Graeme Tait (left) and GM Peter Webster
As tastes change, even the best businesses have to work hard to keep up – and that’s exactly what Columbus Coffee and its franchisees do.
Columbus Coffee has been serving Kiwis since 1995, with over 70 franchised cafés in mall, high street and Mitre10 locations throughout New Zealand. ‘We are continually evolving to keep the brand fresh, relevant and competitive across the board,’ says general manager Peter Webster. ‘We’ve adapted menus to include more options for different dietary needs, our very successful loyalty programme has been upgraded to an integrated system with more rewards, and we’ve been supporting our franchisees with transitioning their cafés to our bright new look.’
Jigisha and Dannee Patel have had their Columbus Coffee in Glen Innes since 2011. ‘We chose the franchise partly because it suited our lifestyle but also because it seemed to be right for the market, and staying relevant remains just as important today. The advantage of a great franchise like Columbus is that it gives you both the structure of the business and guidance on how to succeed. We have grown with the brand in the last few years and have seen how important it is to take their advice and evolve to keep offering new things to our customers.’
‘The franchise team has made changes to the menu, store design, uniforms and technology across the board, but they’ve also worked individually with franchisees to get the best out of each site. Everyone’s tastes are different, so Columbus Coffee provides a variety of recipes to enable franchisees to tailor their offerings to their local market. At Glen Innes, we’ve been here a long time and know our customers well, so we can reflect dietary trends and change our Local Favourites menu seasonally to keep things fresh.’
While there’s managed flexibility in the menu with Local Favourites, Columbus Coffee customers enjoy knowing that some things will be the same wherever they go – especially the quality coffee, freshly roasted and created by properly-trained baristas. Another plus is the nationally-integrated loyalty programme which earns customers a wide range of rewards on the whole food and beverage menu. ‘Not only does this allow us to improve interactions with our customers and learn their names – the whole system gives us the ability to better analyse our business, see where our customers are coming from and recognise their loyalty,’ says Jigisha.
A fire several years ago proved to be a blessing in disguise for the Patels, as it occurred just before Columbus Coffee’s latest store concept was launched. With full insurance being required under the franchise agreement, rebuilding wasn’t an issue, ‘And it meant we were one of the first to feature the new look,’ Jigisha smiles. ‘Our café was better than ever and our customers loved the new design. It’s at times like that you realise just how important it is to have experts in the franchise keeping you up to date.’
Another long-term franchisee, Jane Merai, agrees. Jane refurbished her Columbus Coffee in Glen Eden last March after running it for seven years. ‘The café has a very different look and feel now – bright, light and fresh. It’s been a very popular change of environment for staff and customers alike. For me, the most rewarding part of this business is building relationships within the community and interacting with people, so it’s great to hear positive feedback about the space we’ve created to do that in.’
While franchisees like Jane concentrate on serving the customers, the Columbus team is working behind the scenes to improve the business in all sorts of areas. In recent years they’ve embraced both traditional media, with television and cinema advertising reflecting the brand’s pride in its quality food and coffee, and TV On Demand and social media campaigns to engage their fans and attract new customers. Meanwhile, an online ordering/payment system is being trialled to improve the experience for the to-go customer, and a comprehensive WeChat marketing programme ensures we are connecting with a growing Asian market.
Columbus is also eliminating plastic where possible and has launched an environmentally-friendly packaging range in all stores. ‘This move has been well-received by our customers,’ Jane says. ‘It’s a small change for franchisees but one which has such a positive impact on our world.
‘Columbus Coffee is always competitive because they are so proactive – the franchise team provides great support and tests lots of new initiatives. These filter through to franchisees and allow our businesses to continually evolve, which has a positive effect on our sales, our margins and our investment.
For new franchisees, investment levels range from $280,000 - $440,000. There are high street sites around the country looking for franchisees right now, and café sites within Mitre10 MEGA locations also become available from time to time under an exclusive agreement with Columbus Coffee.
‘We are looking for people like Jigisha, Dannee and Jane who are dedicated to growing their own business and always looking to improve while providing the service New Zealanders have come to know and love,’ says Peter. ‘If you have the right attitude and can lead a team, you don’t need previous hospitality experience so give me a call.
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