Thinking of Buying a Fast-Casual Franchise? Read this report first.

Ones to Watch | By Sabrina Davis

The Human Bean
Cup from The Human Bean.

In 1998 with specialty coffeehouses hitting their prime, a small drive-thru concept opened to serve the somewhat overlooked customers who perhaps needed coffee the most—busy moms with kids in the car, and professionals too pressed for time to stop and enjoy that third place between home and work.

Founders and managing partners of The Human Bean, Dan Hawkins and Tom Casey, set out to provide high-quality coffee as quickly as possible, while putting people first and establishing good relationships with customers, franchisees, vendors, and the farmers providing their coffee.

“My mom came up with the name,” Hawkins says. “We liked it because it was a clever play on words, but it really has molded our company philosophy.”

Hawkins and Casey opened their first double-drive-thru store in Ashland, Oregon, and quickly grew to nine corporate locations in southern Oregon before franchising in 2002. There are now 31 stores open in six states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, and North Carolina) and development agreements for another 110 drive-thrus in the U.S.

“There are no particular target states,” Hawkins says. “We want to do some infilling in the middle and Midwestern states, but mostly we have franchisees coming to us.” Nevada is showing promise with stores opening in Reno and franchise talks underway in Las Vegas.

Casey says internet leads and word-of-mouth have fueled franchise growth. The lack of monthly royalty fees and relatively low startup costs, between $93,150 and $235,000 (which includes a $15,000 franchise fee), make the franchise package attractive.

“We started out as operators and tried to look at the business from the franchisee perspective,” Hawkins says. “Not having to pay royalty fees each month leaves more money for franchisees to invest in their company and become more successful, which makes us more successful. It’s a win-win situation and helps create great relationships with franchisees.” Hawkins says his corporation derives income through national buying contracts with vendors and mainly from its roasting business that it uses to provide coffee to franchisees.

The Human Bean offers a variety of roasts including a medium-dark signature espresso roast with a hint of berries, a dark French roast with a bold, smoky flavor, and a mocha-java blend with a wine-like aroma. The top-selling drinks are the signature espresso drinks, particularly The Human Bean Supreme, a white chocolate mocha. The concept also serves teas, including chai, and smoothies.

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