It's been eight years since Andy Lucas and Brad Jacobs brought Australian franchise The Coffee Club to our shores, and next year they'll open their 50th cafe. So what pearls of wisdom have they picked up, and what other hospitality brands do they admire?
In my former life, I was a...
Brad: I was a trainee teacher.
Andy: I was a restaurant professional and concierge working in some of the top hotels in Brisbane. I have always loved working with people and providing great service.
And going back to your very first job ... what was it and what did you learn from it?
Brad: My first job was at McDonald’s. I learnt so much at McDonald’s and that’s really where my passion for franchising, especially food franchising began. It was a strict environment, but great for learning discipline.
Andy: My first job was working in a hotel in Brisbane as buffet attendant. The biggest lesson I learned was that you look after the customer no matter what – they are paying your wage after all!
If I weren’t doing this, I'd be:
Brad: I’d most likely be in a property role for a franchise business.
Andy: Running my own cooking school, probably aimed at kids. When I was young my parents sent me to numerous cooking schools and that’s where my love for food really started (apart from my parents’ amazing cooking at home!). I’m not a qualified chef but I have always loved cooking and get great enjoyment out of teaching others how to cook and most importantly educating people on the importance of healthy nutritious cooking.
What's been the most pivotal moment in your life in terms of being successful in business?
Brad: Being recognised at the Westpac New Zealand Franchise Awards as the both the F&B and Supreme Franchise System of the Year for the last two years is of course very rewarding. Being recognised by your peers is always a pivotal moment for any businessperson, I believe.
Andy: In 2012, when The Coffee Club brand won all four awards (including both Supreme awards) at the Westpac NZ Franchise awards, I started to feel that we had finally achieved something big. I guess we always knew we had a great business model, but that was a great reinforcement. Everyone needs a pat on the back once in a while!
Who do you admire the most – in terms of business leaders – and why?
Brad: I don’t have one guru as such, but I have spent a lot of time learning about the key franchise groups in the world and the people behind them in their early days. There are some amazing stories about some very interesting people out there.
Andy: My parents because they inspired me to own my own business from an early age, and they always ran their own business in a positive way, which looked after the people in the business first. I saw the positive effect this had and have tried to have the same approach with our business today.
What sets The Coffee Club apart from competitors?
Andy: We pride ourselves on providing good food, great service, and excellent coffee across all The Coffee Club stores, and our consistent menu offering is what sets us apart. We believe that is the strength of The Coffee Club's brand and the reason a customer visits us – because they know what they are going to get no matter when or where they visit us.
Brad: The only additional point I would add to what Andy has already said is our strong European heritage. The founder directors all have a Greek heritage and have kept The Coffee Club true to a European style café and have not been tempted to sway towards the more American style coffee bars like other major groups have done at times.
What other hospo brands do you admire and why?
Brad: There are a number of fantastic NZ grown franchise brands that have developed world-class systems and reputations. This is something to be proud of. My career started at 14 at McDonald's and again, this is really where my passion for food franchising began. I would have to say I still admire McDonald's for the amazing systems they have and the great start they have provided many people like myself.
Andy: I really love TANK JUICE BAR – they have a really good product and great branding. The reason I admire them though is because I am really into my health and fitness, and I believe in their product.
And what do you get up to outside of work?
Brad: I don’t do downtime very well at all. Walking the streets looking at different brands, fit outs, logos and design is the best way for me to relax and enjoy time out of the office. Making time for traveling (especially to non-English speaking countries) is definitely my number one goal for the next few years.
Andy: I focus a lot on my health and fitness. I find myself at the gym every day. I also make use of downtime to enjoy solitude and time to myself to reflect on what we’ve achieved, and what more we want to accomplish both in business and in life personally.
What does your usual coffee order consist of?
Brad: Trim flat white (have to watch the waist!)
Andy: I’m not one of those to have the same coffee every time, I like to try new things – I think that reflects my personality too. Most common are flat white, piccolo latte, mocha, and occasionally I will have a frappe latte if I feel like something cold and refreshing!