by Columbus Coffee
last updated 18/09/2020
A Brand To Weather The Storm
by Columbus Coffee
last updated 18/09/2020
Columbus Coffee has been making friends throughout New Zealand for 25 years
Kiwis are great discoverers. We travel, find things we like, bring them home, adapt them and improve them. So it’s no surprise that one of our most well-established café brands is named Columbus – and it’s no surprise, either, that Columbus Coffee has found a warm welcome over the last 25 years in communities from Kerikeri to Invercargill.
‘Although we opened our first café in Auckland’s High Street, our uniquely New Zealand approach has enabled us to go to towns throughout the country,’ says managing director Graeme Tait. ‘Our franchisees are very much part of the local community, and that’s created a brand that customers trust.
‘Being locally-owned means we have our finger on the pulse. We keep an eye on overseas trends, but we like to think we’re more world-leading than world-following.’ It’s an approach that has seen Columbus Coffee and its franchisees win multiple awards over the years, and survive everything from SARS to the GFC to Covid. ‘We’ve been through them all and come out stronger every time, thanks to our loyal customers and dedicated franchisees,’ says Graeme.
Community support goes both ways
Cate Sutherland explains the bond between franchisees and their customers. Cate opened Columbus Coffee Timaru four years ago, having lived in the Canterbury town for 30 years. ‘The community supports the café, and we support the community,’ she says.
‘For Daffodil Day, we always have a breakfast here for the South Canterbury Cancer Society – we have 13 staff and we all get dressed up and have a lot of fun. With Level 2 it will be a bit more complicated, but we’ll still serve 140 people or so over several sittings. Red Nose Day is the same, and last Christmas we put hampers under the tree for people to fill with gifts for the local hospice – they donated three big boxes!
‘In return, when we opened again after lockdown, our customers flocked back and showed us great support. Columbus Rewards is a very effective loyalty programme, but people were choosing to pay for coffees rather than redeem their free ones. In fact, July trading this year was much higher than last year!’
A family feel
Cate was a catering manager at the local high school for almost 20 years before joining Columbus Coffee. ‘When I saw Columbus was opening here I said to myself, “If I don’t try, I’ll always wonder.” I’d never had a business of my own but I’d researched some of the issues, and I knew buying a franchise would take some of the risk away. Columbus have so much experience in setting up, providing systems, and helping people build businesses.
‘I spent a week training at the support office in Auckland, learning the systems, the management side and the strategic stuff, then a month at Columbus Coffee in Ashburton learning all the roles. Our café was successful right from the start. The first two years were still hard work, don’t get me wrong, but by year three we saw real financial gains and it’s gone on growing.
‘The other great thing has been the friendliness of the franchise. It’s good to have a group of people to share questions with, not necessarily big issues but “What do I do if the ice machine is making a funny noise?” – that sort of thing. If I weren’t part of a franchise, who would I talk to? Columbus has recently set up regional What’s App groups to make it even easier to share.
‘And during lockdown, the franchise was great offering all sorts of practical help and advice to help us make it through and get ready for re-opening. It was also nice that Graeme got on the phone himself and made direct contact. Columbus really does have that family feel, despite its size.’
Choose with confidence
Columbus Coffee now has 75 cafés around New Zealand, many in high street or mall locations, while some operate within Mitre 10 MEGA stores. Investment levels start from $350,000 +gst.
‘If you are looking for a business opportunity, it’s important to choose something you can have confidence in,’ says Graeme. ‘Look at the category, the brand, the system and the return they can provide. Also, look at how they have weathered the recent storms and whether they have experience you can rely on.
‘With 25 years behind us, Columbus Coffee is bigger than it’s ever been. We have over 350,000 people in our Columbus Rewards programme – that’s about 7 percent of the population – and are constantly developing initiatives to stay fresh and relevant. We expect the same from ourselves as we do from our franchisees: be resilient, be robust and stick at it every day – you never know what’s going to be in front of you but, as Cate says, you do know you won’t be doing it alone.
‘If you want a new opportunity in heartland New Zealand, like Cate, we have the experience to train and support you to build the best business you can. Contact us to discuss your options.’
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