When Diane Chua and her siblings first laid eyes on Caffe Bene, one of the biggest coffee chains in South Korea with over three times as many stores in its home country as world-famous rival Starbucks, they knew exactly what they had to do.
Chua and her siblings became the Korean brand’s local master franchise holder, as they opened the first Caffe Bene branch here in November 2012. “We really liked it,” said Chua, chief operating officer. “We knew it would work here.”
Caffe Bene currently has five branches, all of which are company-owned. “When we opened, we really wanted to have franchisees, but we realized that it’s better to have our company-established stores first,” said Chua. Still, she said they have received several franchise inquiries since they started operations, including from people who want to set up in Cebu and Boracay. “It’s the originality of the concept, the interiors, and the menu,” she said, noting Caffe Bene is not your typical corporate-looking coffee shop, which is why it draws interest.
Adapting to customer wants
As expected, Caffe Bene serves flavors that are distinctly Korean, such as misugaru (roasted grain rice latté, served hot or iced); bing su (red beans, gelato, and whipped cream—the “high end” Korean version of halo-halo); and sweet honey bread (a favorite of many sweet-toothed Koreans). “When Koreans drink [our misugaru latté], they really feel they’re at home,” Chua said.
Despite their commitment to preserve the authentic Caffe Bene experience when they brought the brand to the Philippines, Chua and company decided to tweak the menu. “We have to adapt to what the customers want,” she said. The sandwiches, pastries, cakes, and croissants were all developed to suit the tastes of their customers, many of whom are yuppies “who are willing to try more than the usual coffee shops, and are more adventurous about the menu,” she said.
Chua said choosing the location for a Caffe Bene branch plays a crucial role in the brand’s success; this process involves gaining a good grasp of the target market within that specific area. A branch in Makati City, for example, should cater to the needs of office people searching for a quick bite for lunch.
“Eventually, you need to adapt; otherwise, you’ll be left behind by your competitors who know and give what the customers want.”
Total investment: Starts at P8 million ($172,582.55), depending on the size and location of the store
Contract term: 8 years
Inclusions: Rights to use name, trademark, and logo; site selection guidance; design and construction assistance; operations manual; initial inventory; equipment; grand opening assistance; advertising and marketing support; continuing guidance, among others
Caffe Bene Philippines
(+63 2) 708-0410
Unit I, MOCA Commercial Square,
Roxas Blvd. corner Cortabitarte St.,
Malate, Manila 1004
Mikael is a freelance writer who covers tech and lifestyle. Follow him on Twitter, @mikaelwrites
This article was originally published in the August 2015 issue of Entrepreneur Philippines magazine.