Drive-Thru Coffee: Franchisors Compete for Quick, Convenient Delivery

Starbucks may have blown the market wide open to mass consumption, but its competitors are quickly redefining how coffee is served-especially the speed at which it's delivered.

Consider some "cup of joe" stats. According to the National Coffee Association's 2004 Annual Trends Study, 56 percent of Americans age 18 or older are coffee drinkers. Daily coffee consumption increased four percent from 2003 to 2004, which translates into more than 300 million cups of coffee downed in a day. In fact, the average coffee house customer visits a specialty coffee house to get their java fix close to 20 times per month.

Numerous are competing for that cup including Cuppy's Coffee, Smoothies & More, Jo To Go Coffee, Gloria Jean's Coffees, and It's a Grind Coffee House. One of the latest developments to catch on in this hotly contested field (the Northwest's been doing it for decades) has been to deliver coffee in a flash-think fast-food drive-thru windows.

Cuppy's Coffee, Smoothies & More is a Fort Walton Beach, Fla., franchise that has developed a two-lane drive-up offering customers a combination of specialty coffee and drinks with quick service. The company specializes in getting customers a cappuccino, latte, or mocha "In Under a Minute."

"Research and personal experience have shown that customers want delicious coffee and speedy service without the hassle of having to go into a sit-down style or restaurant," says Kendra Wilkerson, the brand's director of marketing. "Cuppy's is offering the convenience of a drive-up/drive-thru while still offering customers a wide variety of high-quality beverages."

During the past five years, specialty coffee drive-ups and drive thrus have become one of the fastest-growing distribution channels in the specialty coffee industry.

Green Bay, Wisc.-based Jo To Go Coffee has been one of the pioneers in the coffee-to-go concept. This drive-thru coffee bar franchise was founded in 1998 to cater to coffee drinkers with busy lives. There are currently locations in Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Georgia, and now, Kansas. Entrepreneur Richard Oatman has been busy this summer opening three Jo To Go locations in the Kansas City area.

Oatman thinks Jo To Go Coffee will be a perfect fit for Kansas City's large geographical area, thriving workforce and arts community, and the city's on-the-go lifestyle.

"I love the whole Jo To Go concept," says Oatman. "As a drive-thru coffee bar, they cater to those of us who want access to high-end but don't want to take time out of our busy lives to wait for it. They're focused on providing a great cup of joe in a quick, friendly manner and they do it very well."

The $8.5 billion specialty coffee market is continuing to experience healthy growth. As long as there are consumers who can't start their day without their java jolt, there's going to be plenty of opportunity in this market.

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