Business Profiles

by Cobb & Co.

last updated 27/06/2017

Cobb & Co.
back to the GOOD OLD DAYS

by Cobb & Co.

last updated 27/06/2017

Cobb & Co. is an old favourite and a new opportunity

A famous name is about to open in a famous landmark in Dunedin. Cobb & Co. is one of the best-known brands in New Zealand, while the ornate Renaissance Revival-style railway station is one of the country’s few truly iconic buildings. The opening will also mark something of a renaissance for Cobb & Co. – New Zealand’s original family restaurant chain. 

Every Kiwi has fond memories of Cobb & Co. but from the 1990s onwards the chain became tired and outlets closed. It had a new lease of life, though, when Tauranga franchisees Sue and Ben Gower took over the whole company back in 2012. The couple carefully re-worked the traditional menu, keeping old favourites and adding new ones, with an emphasis on quality ingredients such as Angus Pure beef and ensuring there’s something for everyone. 

New restaurants in Taupo and Rotorua proved that demand for a family-focused casual dining restaurant is as strong as ever, and former Porirua mayor Nick Leggett even set up a special Facebook page to encourage the company to open there. So when Ange Copson met the team behind the newly-revitalised company and experienced the new look, she knew she wanted to be a part of the Cobb & Co. story – and knew exactly where she wanted to open her own restaurant. 

Just a year later, Ange is among a group of six entrepreneurs who are opening the new restaurant at the Railway Station, and the locals can’t wait. A story on the Otago Daily Times Facebook page attracted over 1300 hits in the first two hours and even positive comments from British television star Sir David Jason (of Only Fools and Horses fame). 

pulling power

Last year, the company recruited Nathan Bonney to spearhead the planned opening of 30 franchised and company-owned restaurants nationwide. Nathan is one of the country’s most experienced franchise executives, having worked with Columbus Coffee, Mexicali Fresh and Burger Wisconsin – all New Zealand-owned franchises, like Cobb & Co. 

‘Never underestimate the pulling power of a much-loved brand,’ says Nathan. ‘I don’t think there’s a single person aged 30 to 50 in New Zealand who didn’t have a traffic light drink at Cobb & Co. when they were young, and they’re still pretty popular with kids now. People love eating out more than ever, and Cobb & Co. is once again becoming the place to take the whole family.’ 

robust systems, profitable results

Ange Copson may have no previous hospitality experience but her business partners do, having owned motels and cafés in Dunedin for many years. The group – comprising Ange and her husband Graham, Chris and Adrienne Roy, and Craig and Christine Strathern – also has skills ranging from marketing and tourism to, unusually, crisis negotiation! All have been friends for many years. 

But it’s not just nostalgia that has fuelled this venture. ‘When we started looking into the franchise we found that Cobb & Co. is a very impressive, very profitable proposition these days,’ Ange says. ‘There’s a strong focus on good quality food using local produce where possible, and a wide menu range which ensures something for everyone from our Little Tots menu right up to seniors. It’s about providing a great experience and allowing people to engage as a family. 

‘A restaurant as busy as Cobb & Co. needs very robust systems to make it run smoothly, and that’s what the team have developed. There’s a lot of very smart tech behind the scenes and customer service is key. 

‘We have had fantastic support from the franchisor all the way through. When we first took Ben to the proposed site he thought it was absolutely outstanding, so we’ve worked with the franchisor team and the architects to create something that is not only practical but which will enhance a much-loved building. A new deck uses recycled steel from an old bridge to extend the railway connection and provide a place to appreciate just what a special place this is. 

‘The training has also been sensational. At first I was saying, ‘This might be a stupid question, but…’ then Nathan told me there was no such thing as a stupid question – we need to know what we need to know. His experience is very reassuring and we feel that everyone really wants to help us succeed.’ 

who’s next?

Cobb & Co. is looking for new franchisees to bring family dining back to cities and towns throughout New Zealand. ‘We have some excellent locations available and, as Porirua has shown, a loyal crowd of fans ready and waiting,’ says Nathan. ‘The investment required is upwards of $500,000, much of which can be financed. 

‘Hospitality experience is not a necessity as our industry-leading systems take the guesswork out of restaurant operation.  We provide an initial training programme for new franchisees and ongoing franchise support includes continuous business and, vitally, profitability support.

‘We want to hear from individuals and groups looking for hospitality opportunities throughout the country. Cobb & Co. has a great name and now there’s a great opportunity to go with it. Contact me and find out more.’  

See this advertorial on page 13 of Franchise New Zealand magazine Year 26 Issue 1

Contact details for Cobb & Co.

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