Ones to Watch | By Sabrina Davis
When a trip to the Northwest introduced Scott and Pam Stewart to drive-thru coffee shops, the entrepreneurial-spirited, veteran Little Caesars franchisees immediately recognized an unfulfilled niche in their own fast-paced region of north-central Florida.
“There weren’t any drive-thru coffee concepts in Florida. They knew what it meant to be franchisees and saw an opportunity to franchise their own concept,” says Mick Rynning, president of Ellianos Coffee Company, of the Stewarts.
The Stewarts spent a year on research, recipes, and building design, and opened their first double-drive-thru store in Lake City, Florida, in 2002. They started franchising in 2003, growing the concept to eight stores in north-central Florida and southern Georgia.
By late 2006 the Stewarts were ready to grow their family company to the next level through more aggressive franchise growth. Keeping the family culture strong, they hired Mick Rynning, a 20-year franchising veteran, as president and his wife, Jessica, to manage franchise administration.
“This is an exciting and challenging time,” Rynning says. “I’ve had the benefit of working for people at strong franchise companies and learning what it takes to drive an organization to success. I’m bringing those ideas to Ellianos, and the team is really taking the ball and running to the goal.”
The goal is growth, but Rynning won’t specify the pace. “We really have no set numbers as far as expansion,” he says. “Our focus is programmed growth with the right franchise partners. I can’t say I want 50 new franchisees by the end of next year, because I don’t know how many quality prospects are going to come to us.”
The Ellianos group isn’t seeking franchisees through a standard package. The company introduced a discount franchise fee program called HeroFran in July. HeroFran aims to help U.S. military, law enforcement, and firefighters transition from public service life to business life. The company also is registered with the International Franchise Association’s VetFran program, which provides reduced franchise fees for qualifying veterans.
Ellianos is focused on growing in the Southeast initially but intends to become a national brand. Rynning says the company’s strong sales-to-investment ratio is attractive to potential franchisees. “We’re doing very well based on industry averages,” Rynning says. “There’s a very small footprint: 510 square feet. Turnkey costs, with store construction and equipment, average around $200,000. First year sales average $320,000.”
Another draw for franchisees, Rynning says, is simple operation. Most of the specialty coffee drinks begin with the same foundational recipe. Simplicity is critical in the tiny kitchens, from which the company promises to provide “Italian quality at America’s pace.”