Quality products, friendly service, and a commitment to the community are the cornerstones to this coffee company’s success. With 200 stores in the Western US, Tully’s Coffee is already a major player in the gourmet coffee market, but it is looking to take a bigger piece of the pie through its plan to offer single-unit franchises.
“We believe we have a lot of room to grow by bringing in single-unit business partners that share our passion for coffee and their communities,” said Scott Earle, vice president of marketing. “We can enhance our brand and our presence as a company that wants to be a neighborhood coffee shop. The local franchisees will be connected and invested in these communities even more than the best managers.”
Tom “Tully” O’Keefe opened the first Tully’s Coffee shop in 1992. “He was in the commercial real estate business, and he noticed that a lot of Starbucks were popping up in his commercial spaces,” said Earle. “As an entrepreneur and a man who was passionate about coffee, he decided that he could start his own coffee company.”
O’Keefe and his wife Cathy founded the company based on four points differentiating it from the competition: the best products, friendliest people, most comfortable environments, and a commitment to community. Those four points remain the key to the company’s success today, according to Earle.
The experience at a Tully’s Coffee shop starts with the beans. “We source the finest Arabica beans and roast them to a full city roast,” said Earle. “It’s a very smooth finish with a flavorful profile, not the burnt flavor profile that some people associate with gourmet coffee. We are dedicated to having the perfect cup of coffee, and that translates into all our barista drinks.”
Of course, the company also needs the right people to serve the coffee and make the shops feel like home. “We have friendly, outgoing, and energetic people who want to take ownership of the stores,” said Earle. “It’s one of the main differences between our stores and the competition, and it is a very important one.”
The stores themselves are designed with the comfort of the customers in mind. “From the beginning, our company has designed stores with soft seating areas where we actually encourage loitering,” said Earle. “Ever since free Wi-Fi became something people have wanted, we’ve offered it with no limits.”
More than providing good coffee and a comfortable atmosphere, the company works to have a positive presence in its stores’ communities. “We believe in serving the needs of children through health and fitness education programs,” said Earle. “It’s one of the hallmarks of what our stores are known for. Although we are a big company, we strive from a business standpoint to be a neighborhood coffee shop.”
By focusing on what separates the company from its competitors, Earle said Tully’s does its best to be the perfect coffee shop. “It is our responsibility with the coffee and the products to always focus on quality,” he said. “If there is something coming into our shops that our consumers wouldn’t feel great about, we’ll get rid of it. We are always monitoring to make sure everything is top shelf when it comes to quality.”
As the company looks to grow with the single-unit franchise method, it has a successful model to look at in Japan. In addition to the more than 200 stores in the Western US, the company has about 400 stores in Japan and Eastern Asia.
“Tully’s Coffee Japan started in 1999 as a joint partnership with the master license rights being purchased by TCJ in 2005,” said Earle. “The brand in Japan grew by way of the single-unit franchise method.”
Tully’s Coffee in Japan is a market leader with healthy profits and a strong brand, according to Earle. “We’re going to look to our partners in Japan and how they got to where they are,” he said. “We will emulate the formula they have been very successful with and do it domestically.”
The opportunity for single-unit franchises in the US has already generated a lot of excitement among potential franchisees. A second day was added to a planned franchisee convention, and the spots for that second day filled quickly, according to Earle.
The company is looking to add a number of franchises in Washington state, but Earle said it is open to looking at expansion wherever feasible. “We have been ramping up our support systems and processes as we start growing,” he said. “We want to grow the company as fast as the franchises want to grow.”
The desire for additional Tully’s Coffee shops across the US comes across Earle’s desk on a daily basis. He said he constantly hears from customers that have moved away from an area with a Tully’s and are clamoring to bring the company to their new cities and towns.
The growth plan includes more than the addition of single-unit franchises. “We want to make our stores better and better,” Earle said. “Adding more franchise units will allow us to add more corporate-owned stores.”
As the company grows, it will continue to focus on providing high quality coffee and food. Tully’s adds new products every six to eight weeks, and Earle said the company already has a larger product line than most of the competition.
“We make sure everything is the best it can be,” said Earle. “When it comes to coffee, we really take to our craft, much like with fine wines.”
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