Caribou Coffee launches U.S. franchising program

caribou coffee

Coffeehouse chain seeks multi-unit operators for areas including north-central and Southeastern states

Caribou Coffee, a coffeehouse chain within the Panera Brands portfolio, has begun a franchising program in the United States. With a concentration in the Midwest, Caribou Coffee already has 718 locations, 314 of them company-owned. Previously the brand offered licensing agreements in the United States and sold franchises only outside the U.S. 

Through its franchise campaign, the company is targeting experienced multi-unit operators. A company statement said that qualified candidates need to “have extensive franchising and food and beverage experience, ideally with a background in multi-unit franchise ownership. Franchise opportunities are available in markets around the nation, including Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and the Southeast.

Caribou Coffee was founded in 1992 and built its reputation around handcrafted products and an excellent customer experience. The company has constantly innovated its menu and even its restaurant design. In 2019 it debuted the Caribou Cabin prototype, which features a considerably smaller footprint and drive-through-focused design that emphasize speed and convenience without compromising on quality. Envisioned and enabled by brand President and CEO John Butcher, the Caribou Cabin won rave reviews from customers and maintained strong sales throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. The Caribou Cabin model has steadily expanded with dozens of locations since its introduction, and more of these smaller sites are on tap. Franchisees may opt for streamlined Caribou Cabin sites or choose the coffeehouse’s traditional model that offers seating for customers. 

Butcher is excited about the prospect of expanding the brand. “Over the past 30 years, Caribou Coffee has refined and elevated the guest experience through an unwavering commitment to quality as well as investments in innovation,” he said. “We’ve designed scalable processes and support services to enable franchisees’ success. … We’ve optimized this business model through our corporate-owned locations and are focused on replicating the success we’ve experienced in new markets in partnership with franchise owners.”

Earlier in 2021, Caribou Coffee joined Panera Bread and Einstein Bros. Bagels in the launch of the fast-casual platform Panera Brands, which combined has nearly 4,000 locations in 10 countries. Panera Brands CEO Niren Chaudhary said Panera Brands leadership and team members are “united by our shared values and our guest-centered innovation. With their strong business model and new assets like the new drive-thru focused Caribou Cabin, Caribou Coffee is bringing an exciting new vehicle to potential franchisees while meeting their guests’ desire for convenience.”  

Caribou has sold its products throughout all 50 states for many years via grocery stores, mass retailers, club stores, foodservice providers, hotels, entertainment venues and online shopping. It recently began a subscription program that allows customers to select products that will be shipped directly to their doors.

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