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QSR Interview | By Robin Van Tan

Field of Beans

Tattersfield is careful to emphasize that, to develop the quality Caribou experience he has worked so hard to create, “you need our team there that is well-trained and ready to take on the challenge, as well as real estate. Great real estate is something you don’t want to get too far ahead of.”

So instead of 40 stores, Caribou will aim to open up about five stores this year.

“The goal is to eventually get to that 10 percent target,” Tattersfield says. “To us it’s not about being the biggest; it’s about being the best.”

Bringing Home the Beans

While Tattersfield focuses on creating a premium in-store experience for customers, he also is quick to credit another key strategy in Caribou’s financial success.

“Eighty percent of coffee is consumed at the home or office, and we weren’t in that category significantly,” he says. In 2008, when Tattersfield joined the brand, Caribou’s commercial interests were performing well, with its products available at just more than 2,000 stores.

“If we really wanted to build the brand, we knew we needed to evolve from a branded retail coffeehouse to a branded coffee company,” Tattersfield says. “That’s one of the key decisions we made as an organization to invest in this and grow it.”

Today, Caribou-brand coffee is available at 7,000 stores, including Costco and Sam’s Club.

The company has also looked at new ways to make Caribou coffee available to customers at home. Tattersfield saw an opportunity in Green Mountain Coffee’s K-Cups, which offers consumers one-cup brewing instead of a whole pot.

“They license our brand, and they’ve figured out that consumers at home are looking for convenience with multiple different flavor profiles,” Tattersfield says. “Clearly Caribou resonates with that consumer.”

Even though Caribou’s commercial customers don’t get to experience the in-store interactions that the brand prides itself on, they still get a taste of the concept’s quirky personality; Caribou’s ’Bou-isms, fun messages that embody the company’s “Life Is Short. Stay Awake for It” tagline, are printed on the coffee bags sold in grocery stores just as they are on the cups, napkins, and décor found in stores.

“Unfortunately we’re not in all the states,” Tattersfield says. Commercial sales give Caribou a chance to sell its coffee and expose its personality to customers in all 50 states—without the expense of expansion.

Evolving, Not Changing

Tattersfield is confident in Caribou’s new strategy and the financial success he expects it will continue to bring—so much so that he repeats it several times during his interview.

“I’m not interested in being the biggest, but I’m really interested in being the best,” he says. “I want to build the best coffeehouse and branded coffee company in the U.S.”

But someday soon Tattersfield might have to tweak his mantra to say “the world.”

“We have a great franchise business today in Korea and the Middle East,” he says. “We’ll see where our world footprint takes us.”

Tattersfield also would like to step up the brand’s sustainability efforts. Eighty-five percent of Caribou’s coffee is certified Rainforest Alliance. While the company is one of the few to use the sustainably sourced coffee beans in such high numbers, that’s not enough for Tattersfield.

“Our goal in a year is to be 100 percent,” he says. “I don’t believe in doing things halfway, and I don’t believe in playing with numbers to make us feel better.”

Despite all of the changes Tattersfield already introduced at the company—and the ones he has in mind for the future—he’s quick to emphasize that the brand will stay true to its roots.

“I look at words like change, and those concern me,” he says. “I always think brands are constantly evolving, and it’s really more our evolution of where we are. It’s not a dramatic change, it’s just continuing to deliver the quality message.”

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Robin Van Tan is a regular contributor for QSR.