Canadian coffee chain Esquires looks to Australia following NZ success

Canadian coffee chain Esquires Coffee House is expanding into Australia following an entry to the New Zealand market, spearheaded by a high-tech store concept.

Founded in 1993 in Vancouver, Esquires has established a presence in North America, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, China, Fiji and even New Zealand.

In New Zealand, there are 47 Esquires stores.

Now the franchise has turned its attention to Australia, confirming it will open its first flagship store in Sydney next week. The store will be located in the affluent suburb of Mosman.

The company-owned store will be the model for future Australian outlets, with additional stores planned for not only NSW but also Queensland and South Australia.

Esquires is part of the Retail Food Group family, which is also the local licensee of Donut King, Brumby’s Bakeries, Michel’s Patisserie, bb’s café and, most recently, Pizza Capers.

RFG’s brand manager Khim Puseman admits it is “a little bit unusual” Esquires entered the New Zealand market prior to the Australian market.

“It’s a brand that’s been out there for a little while… A couple of guys in New Zealand actually bought the rights to the New Zealand market, but it is a little bit unusual,” Puseman says.

Puseman is quick to point out the store in Mosman is not the first Esquires store in Australia – there’s another store in Tweed – but it is the first concept store.

“The Mosman store is the first concept store in that it embodies the new brand position of Esquires Coffee House,” Puseman says.

In addition to a self-serve kiosk and free WiFi, each new store will be equipped with iPads for customers to use.

“We’re really trying to embody more of a high technology standpoint. We’ll be launching online ordering, mobile orders, and we have self-serve kiosks,” Puseman says.

“We are leaning towards targeting a younger age group but really anyone who has an appreciation for technology.”

According to Puseman, a love of technology is also important among the chain’s franchisees, which are currently being sought out. Of course, franchisees also need to care about coffee.

“It’s a high-tech brand but it’s also a coffee brand. We’re looking for franchisees or people who have a great passion for coffee,” she says.

“They need to be focused on the utmost quality of the coffee and the service of the coffee.”

“We want them to be able to speak to the target market, and align themselves with the brand in terms of the high-tech offering. Essentially, they need to be enthusiastic.”

Puseman isn’t concerned the popularity of the brand will be compromised because it is foreign.

“The whole range has been adapted to be best targeted to Australia. We haven’t just brought in an international brand, plopped it in an Australian suburb and hope it does well,” she says.

“All our products have been custom picked and chosen because of local palates and local taste… For example, we’ve added more cold beverages because it gets a bit warmer [in Australia].”

Meanwhile, Queensland-based coffee franchise Zarraffa’s Coffee has announced its plans to expand into NSW. Zarraffa’s currently has 52 stores.

A drive-through site in the suburb of Fairfield will be the company’s flagship location in NSW, as part of a plan to open at least 11 new franchises this year throughout Queensland and NSW.

Zarraffa’s chief executive Kenton Campbell told Franchising the company is moving away from traditional shopping centre locations to more suburban retail sites.

“Developing a successful drive-through store model has been critical to these plans,” Campbell said.

“Our primary focus is on building the financial health of all our stores, and delivering value and support to our franchisees.”

“Expansion has always been executed in a financially responsible way, and 2012 is the right time for this move.”

The news comes less than two weeks after a franchisee couple was awarded $1.22 million in damages after a successful appeal against franchisor Billy Baxter’s.

Billy Baxter’s is a chain of licensed coffee houses, cafés and restaurants.

Ross and Sue Pollard operated a Billy Baxter’s greenfield site in the Adelaide suburb of Glenelg, but did not achieve the turnover anticipated by the franchisor’s representative, Phillip Mauviel.

A Victorian Supreme Court of Appeal decision found there were no reasonable grounds for Mauviel to make the representations regarding turnover, resulting in a $1.22 million payout.

This article first appeared on StartupSmart.

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