We spoke to Guy Thompson, founder and managing director of Bar Bellaccino. After creating a business with a sustainable business model and a stellar reputation for great product and service, Bar Bellaccino is looking to expand its reach further throughout Australia. In this director briefing, Guy delves into his business model and ethos, what sets Bar Bellaccino apart from its competitors and the qualities that Guy looks for in a prospective franchisee.
Eden Exchange: Hello Guy, thank you for taking the time to talk with us today. First off, can you tell us about your professional background and experience in the sector? How did you come to be the Managing Director of Bar Bellaccino?
Guy Thompson: Even though I studied accounting and marketing at university, my heart was always in owning my own small business. I’d operated a few successful businesses before I looked at the cafe industry. From a business standpoint, what I like about it was the great bang for your buck. There are very few accounts, investment in stock is very low and very healthy margins means you can get a strong return on your investment.
Bar Bellaccino is the synthesis of 17 years in the cafe/restaurant industry and well as consulting and roasting coffee wholesale.
Eden Exchange: What is the story of Bar Bellaccino and what is its speciality? What makes the franchise unique in the nation that invented the flat white?
Guy Thompson: Bar Bellaccino started off as a tiny, hole in the wall coffee cart out the front of the Marriott Hotel in Sydney’s CBD. It was started in 2004 and I took it over in 2007. In those early days it was focused on coffee and we would have been one of the few cafes to be doing 900-1000 coffees per day. We needed to have very good coffee, fast service and the ability to build a relationship with a lot of customers. Having one cafe is a start. As soon as you multiply, all sorts of different important factors come into play. We have managed to perfect our systems and create an effective and successful business model across multiple stores, which is why we are keen to expand and share this success with the right franchisees.
Eden Exchange: What are the next steps in the development for your company? What are your key goals?
Guy Thompson: Looking forward we are in our expansion phase. Over the next few years we will be looking for partners to join forces with us and run great cafes as part of Bar Bellaccino.
Let me tell you a secret: shopping centres want us in their centres and they are willing to give us the big bucks for the fit out. We pass that on to the franchisees. In many cases we are talking between $100k- $180k. This means the cafes have a great new fit out and are very affordable.
Eden Exchange: Who are your customers? Are they coffee traditionalists or simply café enthusiasts?
Guy Thompson: My view is everybody deserves great coffee. We try to produce the best coffee in the market in all of our cafes. To do this we need to look good as well as be good: we use great coffee equipment (espresso machines, grinders etc), and of course the best coffee beans.
Eden Exchange: It is said that coffee traditionally has its own culture, with precious traditions in the way it is served and prepared. How have you incorporated this culture into your business?
Guy Thompson: Culture, relationships, customer interaction are very important words. In fact, I always make sure our potential franchisees know that there are two things they need:
1. ability to organise staff and,
2. a personality and a willingness to interact with customers.
The rest I can help them with. We always make sure our cafes have the best coffee in the business, but if a franchisee can remember 100-200 names, faces, and coffee orders they will achieve great customer interaction. If you think you can do this then you are on the way to a successful business.
Eden Exchange: You are currently operating in multiple stores across the Sydney region, how has that journey been so far? Have you faced any challenges along the way?
Guy Thompson: Every business should be challenged every day – this is how we evolve, get better and meet the needs of our customers today and tomorrow. Our team looks at our customers needs, what they want, how they want it and in conjunction with our franchisees we work out the best ways of delivering the best experience we can. We focused on the NSW market initially, though we will definitely be expanding across Australia in the near future.
Eden Exchange: In November 2017 you came in at the top 1% of coffee at the Golden Bean Awards for Australia and New Zealand. What was that experience like and how did that come about?
Guy Thompson: The Golden Bean Awards are a regular event and I enter our coffee into the competition every second year. In 2017 we were named one of the top 5 coffees on the judging table for the best coffee – out of 500 entries across Australia and New Zealand.
Eden Exchange: What are your milestones for the franchise at the moment? Is there a goal or project you have in mind for the next stage of development?
Guy Thompson: My vision has always been on building a solid franchise with great franchisees who operate profitable, well-managed cafes. We want to have 20 cafes in the greater Sydney area up and running before working on building other areas.
People ask me how long should this take and my answer is always the same: it depends on the quality of the franchisee enquiries. I will only put a great franchisee into a Bar Bellaccino cafe. So if I have a great franchisees enquire tomorrow, within a few months they can be in a great Bar Bellaccino Cafe.
Eden Exchange: What kind of support do you offer to your franchisees at Bar Bellaccino?
Guy Thompson: We provide training and ongoing support for our franchisees. In terms of ongoing support once their cafes are up and running, it’s different for everybody. For example, one of our cafes was doing very well and the business was building strongly. I offered my support in the form of offering solutions to problems that had not occurred yet; such as waiting times for customers, systems, equipment and staff organisation. Another franchisee has required assistance in the back office setting up the accounts. It’s different for everybody, but we’ll always be there to support them while they are part of Bar Bellaccino.
Eden Exchange: You have described in the past that “Bar Bellaccino combines all of our experience in coffee and food, store design, marketing, operating systems, staff recruitment and more.” Can you expand on that for us?
Guy Thompson: Opening and running a successful cafe is not about putting up a sign and off you go. There is a lot that goes into Bar Bellaccino: site selection, the store design (flow), the look and feel, making it work with training and systems, customer interaction (what to say), the most effective way to locally market your business…so many aspects to get right. We are there to help.
Eden Exchange: Are there any exciting developments in the Bar Bellaccino brand that have been implemented to assist in your growth?
Guy Thompson: One of the critical factors of our growth is our food strategy. We’ve always maintained a strong focus on being the best in our market for coffee, now we’re directing our focus towards producing food that matches that level of quality. The food concept needed to be delicious, easy to prepare, profitable and unique.
Under the banner of Italian street food we developed great dishes that met our criteria. Food like arancini, truffle and ricotta croquettes, Italian meatballs, with fantastic Italian desserts and sweets.
Some cafes expand by introducing a line of retail products – we’d rather focus on being your favourite local cafe with the best service, coffee and food.
Quality locations, quality franchisees and quality training and support.
Eden Exchange: What’s the best thing about your job? What drives you to do what you do?
Guy Thompson: There are many fantastic things about my job. Most importantly, I get to help people achieve their business goals. It is extremely rewarding to look into a business that I understand well and to be able to assist in building that business. If I do this well then I get to grow the big picture and build a great brand across Australia.
Thank you for your time Guy, it has been a pleasure.
About Bar Bellaccino
Our goal at Bar Bellaccino is to supply award winning coffee and food, quickly and with a smile across a network of stores across Australia. We have been making award-winning coffee since 1997 and we are now set to expand with like-minded franchise partners!
Australia’s premier coffee judging competition voted our coffee in the top 1% throughout Australia and NZ (Golden Bean Awards November 2017). With every new store Bar Bellaccino’s reputation for great quality is expanding.