Summit Coffee CEO Shares How He Drives Disruption

What is the origin of Summit Coffee?

Obviously, there are national players such as Starbucks, Dunkin’, and Peet’s, as well as thousands of independently owned coffee shops that do an excellent job, with a chasm separating the two types of coffee companies. I believed there was room for a truly thoughtful, high-end coffee shop to benefit from the systems and infrastructure already in place at Starbucks and Dunkin’. I desired to create a link between these two groups. A great deal is based on the concept of intellectual curiosity, on the question “why can’t we?”

How did you come to the decision to franchise Summit?

We believe that locally owned cafes are the best. It’s extremely difficult for a corporate empire to feel as though it’s making genuine connections on a local level. By bringing in franchisees, we can establish genuine relationships with customers in ways that we cannot. I had to overcome the stigma associated with franchising, and now I can’t imagine scaling it any other way.

You’re a newcomer to franchising. How are things going? What do you wish you knew?

I’m a newbie in charge of a group of newbies. One thing we’ve done well is lean on franchising partners and business friends. For six years, we’ve been Clean Juice’s coffee partner, and they’ve been extremely helpful in answering questions.

I believe I would have spent more time up front considering what site selection meant to us. I believe it is both seductive and flattering when developers and brokers approach you with all of these retail opportunities. However, it was a success. We filed our FDD two weeks before the pandemic began. We recently sold our eleventh franchise. We’re off to a good start for a small, humble coffee company.

What distinguishes you?

We recently announced that we will eliminate the surcharge for non-dairy milks at all of our cafes. We’re attempting to be a market leader in a variety of ways. Among the reasons is

sustainability. Another consideration is customer awareness. According to our analysis, 8% of customers chose oat milk in 2019. It was 44 percent of customers last year, a staggering increase. As your business grows, you must continue to find ways to excite new customers about you. Profit margins are not everything. Consider it almost as a marketing expense. This is a deliberate manoeuvre.

You recently entered into a partnership with Vacation Races. How is this consistent with your brand?

The people who truly appreciate us and with whom we connect are outdoor enthusiasts, particularly runners. There’s a book called “The Power of Unpopular,” and one concept it talks about is finding your people, and as long as you can make that particular group of people big enough so it makes your business survive, then it really just becomes a brand for those people and it’ll spill out from there.

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