How to run a coffee franchise

Mike Woods, Really Awesome Coffee franchisee for Shalford, Surrey
Formerly a chef in the armed forces
Key tips:
Take your size into account when looking for suppliers; be prepared to be friendly to customers; think about any issues (weather, etc) that could harm your sales

FranchiseSales: What are the pros and cons of your new franchise compared to being a chef in the army?

Mike Woods: I'm working less hours. Actually out in the van, there's a lot of stuff that goes on behind the scenes, like having to get stock, sorting out orders and doing all the paperwork as well - I have to do all my own taxes, things like that.

But it's a lot better working hours than I was used to.

The drawback is that I'm pretty much on my own most of the day. I chat to a lot of the customers, and it's quite good, but I'm predominantly on my own.

Whereas when I was in the forces, I was in a team and it was a lot more social.

When I was in the forces I was away for seven, eight months at a time where I couldn't get home. Now I'm home every day and working a lot fewer hours.

So even when I am pottering about at home, cleaning the van, doing paperwork, I'm still there, which is great for me and great for the kids.

I have managed to get a sandwich supplier based in Croydon, who is fantastic, but it was a lot harder than I first anticipated

FS:  On the working hours...

MW: With franchising you get out as much as you put in. I'm a big believer in that - in any job. But in franchising, and your own business, even more. Because you can't rely on anyone else to do it.

But the working hours, for me, it's hit and miss, sometimes I'm working a lot more: when I first started setting this up a few weeks back, I was working 16 or 17 hours a day, but that was when I was looking through different companies, scouting suppliers, working on the van.

Now that it's died down a bit, everything's in place, I've got my suppliers, so everything is running along fine. Now I start early, but I finish early.

FS:  On climate...

MW: When I first started it was really cold, and hot drink sales were pretty good. But in my van, compared to a lot of other franchises, I sell a lot of food. Hot drink sales, even though the weather has got a little bit better, have not really dropped off, I can't see how it's going to change.

I'm a coffee lover, I drink coffee, no matter what the weather, even in Afghanistan I used to drink coffee rather than cold drinks.

FS:  On issues encountered...

MW: One of the first things I thought of is "I need someone who will supply me with sandwiches and rolls and bits like that." I thought that would be quite easy, because you look on the internet and there's a plethora of different companies, but because of my size, I found it really difficult.

I have managed to get a sandwich supplier based in Croydon, who are fantastic, but it was a lot harder than I first anticipated.

FS:  On whom the franchise would suit...

MW: You've got to be quite open, quite sociable, quite bubbly. You can't be sharp and not speak to your customers. Customers like to be spoken to, you need to engage with a customer, even if you're not interested in what they have to say, you have at least got to pretend that you are.

It's a good job if you like talking to people, if you're a bit shy and you don't really like talking to people you don't know, it might not be a great job for you, but for me, I enjoy working with other people, so it's good!

About The Author

Matt Skinner Writer
Matt Skinner writes for all titles in the Dynamis stable including, and as well as other industry publications.