Coffee with a smile

Having perfected its franchise model, Scooter’s Coffee is growing rapidly to become one of the leading drive-thru coffeehouse chains in the Midwest states of the USA

Scooter’s Coffee is one of the buzzing coffeehouse chains in the USA at the moment. The Midwest-based franchise has received two prestigious awards since the turn of the year, including being presented with the 2018 Top Franchise Award by Franchise Business Review, as well as ranking at number 29 on Franchise Gator’s Fastest Growing Franchises for 2018 list. These feats, whilst SC 134 bimpressive, cannot be regarded as particularly surprising, given the unprecedented growth Scooter’s Coffee has reached in the past few years. Since the franchise model was introduced in 2002, the company’s operating stores tally has reached 175 locations in 13 states. What is more significant, though, is Scooter’s plan to open 75 new stores within the next couple of years, starting with 35 sites in 2018. The company is by no means short of ambition, and it has explicitly claimed its intention to be the USA’s number one drive-thru franchise. The start has been more than encouraging but as noted in a promotional video on Scooter’s website: “If you think of us as a 20-chapter book, we are still in the second or third chapter.”

Todd Graeve, Scooters CEO, Don Eckles, Scooters Founder and Mike Rogers, who is Scooter’s COO, all agreed to talk us through the path the business has walked so far, sharing the company’s core values and biggest assets, as well as its long-term aims. “The first drive-thru coffeehouse in Bellevue, Nebraska was opened in 1998 by Don and Linda Eckles and that marked the birth of Scooter’s Coffee,” Mike Rogers, COO begins. “The venture attracted considerable interest in the market as more stores opened in subsequent years, which led to the introduction of the current franchise model in 2002. The exponential growth we have experienced over the years taught us a lot of lessons, especially when it comes to learning how to stay ahead of the growth curve through proactive resource assessment and increased investment in people,” Don Eckles, Founder shared.

Family values
Scooter’s Coffee appears to be a company with inherent sense of promoting family and community-bonding values through friendly service. In fact, the very name of the company is a good example of the family-inspired entrepreneurial spirit embraced by founders Don and Linda. Back in 1998, their daughter was nicknamed ‘Scooter’ and so this became the popular choice for the new company’s name. It also reflects the chain’s mission to offer fast and efficient service by helping customers scoot in and scoot out quickly, thus keeping them satisfied. This admirable business philosophy was reiterated by Todd Graeve, Scooters CEO, on a number of occasions during our conversation, and it seems to represent a defining characteristic of Scooter’s identity. “When we partner with our franchisees, we strive to engage with them in a way that will make them feel as a real and truly valuable part of the Scooter’s family. To achieve this, we have made sure that we have a firstclass operational system that offers all the support our franchisees need to be successful.

“We spend a significant amount of time and energy ensuring that each and every of our locations executes our brand promise: Amazing People, Serving Amazing Drinks, Amazingly Fast. The three primary strengths to which we owe the success of the business are our dedicated, world-class leadership team, the top-quality coffee we use, and the business model we have adopted, the one of a drive-thru kiosk. We have spent years of honing and perfecting it, to reach the position we find ourselves in, at the moment,” Mike Rogers explains, taking pride in the fact that Scooter’s only roasts from the top ten per cent of specialty coffee beans in the world. What is more, it has been just over a year since the company began sourcing only shade-grown coffee beans through its partner, The Arbor Day Foundation. Making a choice of this kind speaks of Scooter’s commitment to operate in an environment-friendly way. It has been estimated that one cup of shade-grown coffee offered by the chain, amounts to two square feet of saved rainforest. their produce is more extensively used, shade-grown coffee farmers from Latin America receive fairer wages for their labour. Further to that, local infrastructure and better access to healthcare and education are forged in the region.

In terms of geographical footprint, the Midwest remains a stronghold for Scooter’s, and this is a result partly of the chain having its roots in Nebraska, and partly due to the targeted business SC 134 cplanning that has taken place over time. “We concentrated on expanding in the Midwest, because we wanted to keep our resources focused, and since we had already established our market presence in Omaha, places like Lincoln and Kansas City, Missouri have proven very successful,” Todd Graeve points out.

Focus on training
Scooter’s expansion dictated the inevitable growth in manpower and the need for a larger office for the company, and this is where the most recent investment has been placed. Don Eckles details: “We are moving to a new Scooter’s Coffee National Headquarters, based in Omaha, which will house a much larger warehouse, bakery and a roasting facility, along with more office space. The property will give us more room to expand capacity as the franchise system is expected to continue growing in the next five to ten years. We are accommodating a best-in-class training facility in the new headquarters, too, with a fullsize and fully operational drive-thru Scooter’s Coffee store. Our intention is to elevate and strengthen our training department, training systems, and overall output. In addition to this, we are planning to create approximately 20 new jobs in our corporate office within the next 18-24 months.”

Business journey
With the company being steady on the highway to ongoing success, and plans for the future firmly in place, Don, Todd and Mike insist that Scooter’s will stay true to its system of values in the years to come: “In the midst of success, we will walk in humility. While we grow our business, we will attend to the success of others, too. We will be kind and compassionate, while competing with intention and excellence. Greatness as a company will often be reflected in the small things we did for others along the way. We are confident that we will have a richer and much more meaningful business journey if we always remember this,” they enthused.