Mobile coffee franchise transforms corporate canteens into in-house delis

Café 2 Go founders use their collective business experience to diversify the franchise offering

Café 2 Go mobile coffee bar.
Café 2 Go mobile coffee bar.
Image: Supplied/Café 2 Go

Conventional wisdom has it that franchisees are self-starters, entrepreneurs with heaps of drive who are destined to succeed. And Pretoria-born Jan Grobler is likely to tell you what to do with conventional wisdom.

Through their franchisees, Grobler and Café 2 Go business partner Mark du Plessis sell 40,000 cappuccinos a month in fixed stores and through coffee trailers at about 1,000 events a year across SA.

Grobler is an advocate with an MBA who has helped found 22 businesses since he left university. He married an Australian and started Café 2 Go in 2013 after seeing coffee trailers in Sydney five years ago. Now the company has 40 franchises of which close to half are owned and managed by head office.

Du Plessis has used his agri-business experience to give the business structure and grow it.

The company has launched an enterprise development programme and a training academy. Its ethos is anchored in “career, community and cause” – about feeling respected, cared for and recognised.

Grobler, who describes himself as the “Chief Bean”, who became a business consultant after finishing his MBA. He started Curator 20 years ago to provide his peers with a start-up kit to help him and others like him earn a living. The Curator Group finds MBA graduates with a high emotional quotient, matches them with experts ranging from engineers to accountants and retailers, and puts them in front of businesses that can be fixed.

Grobler says these high-impact teams find franchise businesses that want to expand “unreasonably fast”. Their success means they keep filling a pipeline of new business ventures.

Franchisers don’t fit a mould, he says. As long as they are serious about the business and have the right support, they should prosper. A retiree who is investing his pension might be a better franchisee than a young buck, even if he is not directly involved in the business.

“If you keep an open mind, you will find one out of every 10 franchisees is a natural entrepreneur. The rest are forced into it through circumstance, and that doesn’t necessarily have any bearing on their success. 

“It might make more sense to get the right person to run your franchise than for you to get in your own way.”

Grobler says entrepreneurship is pitched as SA’s economic elixir and it can have a huge impact, but people need to be appropriate for their roles. “It always sounds like good business sense for the franchisee to always be the operator, but you can create a good management structure in the beginning so you can work on your business, not in your business.”

Grobler says Café 2 Go franchisees get a multilayered package, hinging on supply-chain efficiency and better margins through bulk buying. 

Coffee is a no-brainer and the company’s trailers supply 1,000 events a year.

Café 2 Go has create more than 150 jobs in the past three years.
Café 2 Go has create more than 150 jobs in the past three years.
Image: Supplied/Café 2 Go

It costs R285,000 for a complete kit, and someone selling 100 cappuccinos a day at R25 each will earn a decent living. After rolling out the trailers, the company came up with a higher-priced concept that transforms corporate canteens into in-house delis, for between R300,000 and R500,000. It is also transforming shipping containers into coffee shops, which are more appropriate for certain sites like tourist spots.

Grobler says they are putting the finishing touches to coffee pods of 10m², ideal for small sites such as gyms and mini-malls.

“Coffee is a low overheads business. It is also an anti-cyclical business. Buying a cup of coffee isn’t an economic decision. Everyone drinks it. People don’t feel bad about giving themselves a bit of a treat.”

As franchisers, Grobler says he and Du Plessis have to provide extensive support. First comes a good site, and then all the “boring stuff” from accounting to labour relations so the franchisee can concentrate on delivering a good customer experience.

Grobler says Nedbank’s support has been excellent.

“We love them. Their value system is aligned. They focus on franchises as a force for good in the community. We’ve created 150 jobs in the past three years and the multiplier effect of that is great. Helping people walk tall and make money for themselves is gratifying.”

For more information, visit the Café 2 Go website.

For more information about Nedbank’s franchise division contact: franchising@nedbank.co.za.

This article was paid for by Nedbank.

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