Blenz Coffee General Manager Mark West Runs Second Simultaneously Competing Franchise Look Tea

If allowing their GM Mark West to own his own competing coffee franchise My Cup while attempting to look out for the best interest of Blenz Franchisees wasn’t odd enough, Vancouver’s Blenz Coffee has now allowed him to kickstart a brand new competing tea franchise as well – LOOK Organic Tea

Mark West launches Blenz Competitor LOOK Organic Tea

Mark West launches Blenz Competitor LOOK Organic Tea

On February 10th of this year, the VCSFA published an article about the sudden sale and subsequent splitting of the Blenz Library Square corporate store.  We noted that it was a very interesting business decision to give up such a prime location that was previously used for training new Blenz Franchisees.

More interesting than the actual sale of such a useful corporate asset was the mystery of what would be opening right next door to the store that they had just sold off to a new Franchisee.  Here is a question we asked in our article published nearly five months ago:

Has Blenz protected the current owner of this Library Square location from a potentially competing business opening right next store?  There is not hint of what kind of business will be moving in to the former training space.  What if it turned out to be another coffee shop or tea shop?

Will wonders never cease?

Not only did a tea shop open right next door that competes directly with the Esprit line of Blenz premium teas that Blenz Franchisees are forced by contract law to sell, but the name of the man receiving all franchise inquiries at LOOK Tea is the very same name on the Blenz franchise inquiry page – Mark West. In addition, although the page has recently and mysteriously become un-clickable at the My Cup website, Mark West was also the name on the My Cup Coffee and Tea franchise inquiry page.  Thankfully we saved a screen shot of this. It’s also interesting to note that Mr. West no longer lists the Georgia and Seymour My Cup location which directly competes with three different Blenz locations.   The following are screen shots are from those respective pages:

join-us-LOOK

Want a LOOK Tea Franchis? Call Mark West!

 

Want a Blenz Franchise? Call Mark West!

Want a Blenz Franchise? Call Mark West!

Want a My Cup Franchise? Call Mark West!

Want a My Cup Franchise? Call Mark West!

 

Until the launch of LOOK Organic Tea took place in a retail space that literally shares a physical wall and ‘support’ staff and leadership with a Blenz location (Shawn Pattison of LOOK also works for Blenz the Canadian Coffee Company), the camp was divided as to whether or not Blenz was looking out for the best interests of its Franchisees.

The camp is no longer divided.

 

Five Signs of Excellence in Franchising – a Must Read

This article is an absolute must read for all prospective franchisees (franchise operators) and current franchise owners.

The VCSFA completely agrees with these 5 measurements of excellence and we are excited that a reputable organization has published this.  It is backed with actual research as well, which is a great bonus.

After hearing horror stories in coffee shop franchising in Vancouver, we ran a quick check amongst our members and the ones who are suffering agree that their franchisor failed at least half of these measurements.  In fact, one chain has failed all of them.  Here is the list of five points from the article with some concrete examples of how some of our members were failed by their franchisor:

Five behaviours of credible franchisor leadership

  1. The franchisor demonstrates a clear strategy and direction for the brand (including awareness of competitive threats with a plan to deal with them).

One Vancouver franchisor has not acknowledged the sudden emergence of a competing brand, nor attempted to match their radio advertising on a local news channel.  Customers are asking the franchisees why the competing chain is advertising and they are not.  The same brand has completely different standards of ‘branding’ applied to different stores.  This is interpreted as ‘favouritism’ by the franchisees creating a poor business environment.

  2. The franchisor is fair and consistent in dealings with all franchisees (this means having clear policies and sticking to them).

This same local Vancouver coffee chain has also failed this.  Some stores are making their own sandwiches while other stores were told they would be ‘in violation’ if they did and that the stores making them are ‘special cases’.  Some stores were told they must do certain things while others were not.

  3. The franchisor shows respect by listening to franchisee ideas and concerns before making important decisions. However listening does not mean agreeing.

In the case of this same failing chain, several franchisees requested urgent meetings with the directors to discuss very important issues that affect the whole brand.  One franchisee was told to wait 3-4 weeks because ‘it was summertime’. The franchisor never got back to them and when the franchisee pointed this out, they immediately tried to remedy it but needless to say putting off an urgent meeting for 1.5 months make this person feel loved. Many of the franchisees have asked the same franchisor to address issues related to their business and the franchisor has remained silent – completely ignoring the questions.  Needless to say this entire chain is quickly approaching a crisis.

  4. The franchisor embodies the values of the brand in their own behaviour. Hypocrisy kills brand passion like nothing else.

When confronted by franchisees about expensive vendors that they were forced to use, the franchisor replied “The vendors must make money, too.”  However, when the franchisees themselves were going bankrupt, there was no support or help was given.  The chain continues to force on their franchisees the same vendors.  This chain talked endlessly about ‘the importance of brand’ yet in the same city they opened a location in a hotel lobby in prominent location with a ‘similar’ but not ‘same’ name.  The sleeves are from the chain but the cups are branded to the hotel.  Some of the drinks are the same but the entire concept is muddy and unclear.  Customers around the city have asked the franchisees ‘what is this thing?” to which they have no reply.  Hypocrisy kills the brand.  A franchisor must practice what they preach or risk losing the trust of their entire front line.

  5. The franchisor reminds franchisees that he/she and the entire support team care about franchisee profitability as much as their own.

As mentioned in some of the examples above, this same offending chain has demonstrated to their franchisees that they don’t care about their profitability as much as their own.  No offer of reduced royalty payments to struggling stores.  No offer of reduced marketing fund payments for the obvious absence of advertising.

Thankfully for the franchisees, times have changed quite a bit recently.  If you read this article we published about the Dunkin’ Donuts situation you will learn that a franchisor cannot simply continue to fail.

In addition to this 5  point health check you can now perform on your franchise or your prospective franchise, we strongly recommend you also read this article we published about Five Things You Should Know Before You Buy a Coffee Shop Franchise as well as our Checklist to Evaluate a Prospective Coffee Shop Franchise (with bonus commentary)

Don’t forget that the VCSFA is always here to help.  You are not alone and your questions are important.

In case you have not see our most up-to-date list of coffee shop franchises in Vancouver, here is a list in alphabetical order.  Let us know if we’ve missed any:

 

Bean Around the World, Blenz, BG Urban Cafe (formerly Bread Garden), Cultured Coffee and Tea, Esquires, Moka House Coffee, My Cup, Second Cup, Serious Coffee (Vancouver Island), Take Five Cafe, Tim Horton’s, Wave’s Coffee, Wired Monk