Business Profiles

by Columbus Coffee

last updated 23/06/2021


Keeping It Fresh

by Columbus Coffee

last updated 23/06/2021


It’s not just giving away cars that keeps Columbus Coffee customers coming back

Darren and Catherine Millburn receiving their award from Columbus Coffee CEO Graeme Tait (left)

People just want to be here,’ smiles Columbus Coffee franchisee Catherine Milburn. ‘I’ve treated my staff just as if they were my family, and with the franchise’s constant innovations and fresh ideas, they are always excited and keen. In this business you have to be outgoing and customer-centric, and it pays off – our customers want to be here too, which is why we’re so successful.’

It all goes to show that attitude is more important than experience. Trained in social work, Catherine spent eleven years with the NZ Drug Foundation in a desk-bound job with occasional travel. ‘I was ready for a change then, when I was at a conference in San Diego, my husband phoned to say we were buying a Columbus Coffee! Five years on, I have to say he made the right decision!’

It wasn’t just a whim, though – at the time, Darren was manager of the Mitre 10 MEGA store in Porirua. Columbus has an ongoing relationship with Mitre 10 MEGA, with in-house cafés in many of the superstore’s outlets. ‘Darren had seen the potential and recognised that Porirua was on an ever-upwards trajectory, and I had worked in hospitality and retail in the past, so it seemed like a great idea to get into a progressive but much-loved New Zealand brand,’ says Catherine. ‘And that’s how it worked out – I was surprised and delighted to be named Franchisee of the Year for Columbus in only our second year of operation.’

Driving interest

Catherine says that owning a café can be more flexible than people might think. With children of 7, 8, and 18, she has plenty going on outside the business. ‘The key is to have staff you can rely upon,’ she smiles. ‘A lot of my team have been with me for more than four years: three left for study and subsequently returned, and nobody has left on bad terms. If you create a healthy culture, they won’t let you down, and they won’t let their lovely customers down either.’

Columbus Coffee now has 75 cafés around New Zealand in high street or mall locations as well as within Mitre 10 MEGA stores. ‘What keeps the company so fresh is the attention to detail in our menu development, and the flow of exciting campaigns such as the recent competition to win an MG car,’ says Catherine.

‘That produced a big upsurge for us as we had lots more people coming back in to get an entry form – it was a bit like getting a Lotto ticket every time they came to a café. We had something like 100,000 entries and attracted a lot of new customers, which drove both traffic and sales.’

Strong relationships

Giving away cars may be an excellent way of driving traffic, but it’s the quality and consistency that Columbus Coffee is known for which keeps customers coming back.

 ‘We have a huge number of customers on our Columbus Rewards loyalty programme,’ Catherine continues. ‘One of the most recent campaigns gave a free regular beverage with  a kitchen menu meal to any Super Gold Card holder. It was available Monday to Friday, and was as popular with the staff as it was with the customers – we’ve built strong relationships with our regulars, and it was lovely to be able to reward them like that.’

And in the trend-setting end of the market, Columbus Coffee has gone into partnership with the country’s number 1 collagen brand, Dose and Co, to offer the brand’s popular dairy-free collagen creamer product as an addition to their drinks. ‘It was a real point of difference to offer customers the option of a “dose of wellness”, and got a lot of people thinking,’ says Catherine. ‘It enabled all of us to talk to our customers about something new and different, and keep them engaged.’

Invest with confidence

‘If you are looking for a business opportunity, it’s important to choose something you can have confidence in,’ says Columbus Coffee General Manager Jon Hassall. ‘With 25 years’ experience behind us, Columbus Coffee is bigger than it’s ever been. But things constantly change, and it’s our emphasis upon constant development that has kept us so fresh and relevant to customers.

‘We have seasonal menus, and while we are famous for our coffee quality, we also offer variety such as our recent Decadent Frappé range to ensure there’s always something new in your local Columbus Coffee. That’s important when our customer rewards programme has over 350,000 members – about 7 percent of the population! And yes, we are still a New Zealand-owned brand, which has enabled our franchisees to be successful right across the country from small towns to city centres.’

Columbus has opportunities available with investment levels starting from $350,000 +gst. It’s an investment Catherine and Darren Millburn have never regretted.

‘Hospitality can be a fickle business, so having a solid, friendly brand behind you the whole way makes a big difference. Columbus Coffee still has a family feel about it and there has always been support when we’ve needed it. It’s everything a franchise should be.’  

See this advertorial on page 25 of Franchise New Zealand magazine Year 30 Issue 1

Contact details for Columbus Coffee

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