A small article in the Huffington Post BC slipped by many readers. It is most significant to us at the VCSFA not because of what is on the list, because instead what is not on the list.
Before reading the article, it is important to preface that the author Jesse Ferraras used the term ‘franchise’ towards Artigianos where was not a Franchisee/Franchisor business model but instead a corporate structure. Be it known that Caffe Artigiano does not sell individual franchises as is therefore not on the VCSFA list.
Why this article struck us as notable was that we could not find one – no, not a single solitary name – coffee shop franchise. Don’t believe us, do your own comparison.
The VCSFA Comprehensive List of Vancouver Coffee Shop Franchises
The Huffington Post article of ‘The Best Coffee in Vancouver’ list
Not a single coffee shop franchise wowed the people enough to make it into this list which begs the two obvious questions:
What makes a coffee shop desirable?
Why aren’t coffee shop franchises desirable?
In defense of all those who were not included in this list, we at the VCSFA do not consider Yelp to be a reliable form of research data. We have had many discussions with cafe and restaurant owners who have had very positive reviews end up ‘filtered’ at the bottom of their page, not contributing towards positively to their star count. Further, we know of some horrific cafes that have been reviewed accordingly and those awful 1-star ratings still sit there filtered today, not lowering their star count to where it should be. Finally, we believe that every food and beverage business needs a ‘jubilee’ every 1 or 2 years where all their entire ratings and history are magically erased and reset to zero and the business gets a chance to right the wrongs of the past, starting again with a clean slate. Can you name one food/beverage business where the same bad (or good) staff are still working there two years later? Or, is it not possible that a new owner has taken over and has improved upon or killed the previous owner’s work? For this reason, we acknowledge that the data source is not a reliable enough to be considered conclusive.
With that preface, Yelp is good for one thing: collecting the ‘extremes’. So, if a review does make it through the Yelp filters, it is likely that the person who wrote it is pretty fired up in the positive or the negative. It is even more unlikely that someone will blog a positive review so all the kudos to the shops that got some.
With all that preamble behind us, here is the important stuff that we have pulled out of this work:
What seems to make people like these shops:
- quality food
- unique atmosphere
- niche java (ie. serving South American style, Clover machines, freshly roasted, organic/fair trade, etc)
- niche skill (ie. latte art)
One reason why a Franchise coffee shop may not have made it on the list is because people, by the nature of the way they view a multi-location chain, don’t consider it special. They may get a good drink but because it’s part of a big chain they might not consider that experience unique enough to blog.
The VCSFA is well aware that the food programs at most if not all coffee shop franchises is abysmal. In many cases the owner of the store is forced to order over-priced product from a vendor that has no idea what the customers in his neighbourhood are demanding and/or has no authority or ability to provide a solution. In one case, a group of franchisees from a major Vancouver chain reported to us that their sandwiches were made in Vancouver and then shipped for sale to their store in the Okanagan! We could understand this model for a low-priced, high-volume chain, but we were shocked that this was occurring in a chain claiming to be trying to carve out a piece of the high-quality market. Needless to say that as soon as the customers found out, sales slumped.
Coffee shop franchises should be on alert and take much heed to this casual list. Franchisees of the chains that were not included on this list (which is every last one of them) should start immediately asking their Franchisors what went wrong.