Global coffee giant The Coffee Bean held a grand opening of its latest addition to an international group of 900 outlets in 28 countries last month with its newest location in BKK1.
This brings the Cambodia total to two outlets including a smaller one on the ground floor of Phnom Penh Tower which opened in November, 2011.
On hand at the grand opening was The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf’s Vice President for Business Development Bob Kaufman who came on a special trip for the event and took time to talk about the worldwide Coffee franchise.
Kaufman, who has been working with The Coffee Bean for seven years, said the original store was opened in 1963 in Brentwood, California by a guy named Herb Hyman who he described as a “salt of the earth” kind of guy.
“The whole idea behind The Coffee Bean was simply the best ingredients. You find your flavor; there are no two people who have the same palate. If you can explore you can find out what makesyou happy.”
“Everything has always been guided by our customers. We were among the first to have mocha and our customers asked for it.Herb went to Belgium and found the best chocolate that would make the creamiest drink. He did the first frozen coffee beverage he was the father of blended coffee drinks.”
Kaufman says when Starbucks came to the Los Angeles market in 1992 they created Frappuccino in order to compete with The Coffee Bean.
“We put tea through an espresso machine. We have great ingredients, innovation and we give customers the freedom to explore. What sets us apart is our commitment to always staying true to our brand promise, and our understanding of how to build the bridge for local acceptance,” Kaufman said.
The experience of The Coffee Bean’s international footprint in 28 countries “has led us to understand the fact that the brand means different things in different countries,” he said.
For example in the Middle East where alcohol is prohibited, the café seves as the de-factor bar and social gathering place in more than 50 outlets in countries including the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt.
“We truly believe to be able to build the correct Coffee Bean for each market we have to have the local ownership for each market.The local ownership will allow us to present the brand the right way to make our customers happy.”
Kaufman said the American culture of selling coffee in paper cups was different from other places around the world.
“Coffee tastes better in ceramics. This is a dynamic business, and I think it’s flawed to manage by remote. We have local ownership that has the ability to know the brand and build the bridge to local acceptance.”
Kaufman said the Coffee Bean brand has been around for fifty years, and it has taken that long to perfect the supply chain, recipes and operations.
There are more than 300 Coffee Bean outlets in the USA across 16 states and 500 in Asia, including 250 in Korea, 50 in Singapore, 60 in Malaysia, 65 in Indonesia, 60 in The Philippines, 27 in India, 30 in Shanghai, 7 in Bangkok and 15 in Brunei.
The CEO of The Coffee Bean is a man named Mel Elias, who Kaufman describes as “an amazing guy.”
“We are an American company with the majority of the ownership by Singapore. But it has always remained as an American company,” he said.
The Coffee Bean franchise is headed locally by Korean-American Sean Kang, who worked for Korean Airlines for 15 years and Asiana Airlines for 15 years.
The franchise is operated through a company called CGI food, which also has Coffee Bean franchises in Thailand, Hong Kong and China as well as Cambodia.
“We started one year ago and we have ten franchises in Thailand,” Kang said.“We are the coffee bean developer, our company is a franchisee,” he said. Both Kang and his other founding partner, Damon Lee, another successful Korean-American, were on hand for the Phnom Penh Coffee Bean grand opening last month.
“In Thailand and China, our role is just to deliver the license and management consulting, but in Cambodia we invest our money and we try to stay here,” Kang said.
He’s proud of what Korea has accomplished since the 1960s.
“We worked very hard and we are proud of developing our country. From 1970 to 2000 was a very important period and our generation made a big expansion.We had to work very hard and we concentrated only on work. During the 1960s, Korea was in the same situation as Cambodia is today. We were very aggressive and passionate persons. My life goal was to make significant contributions in the world.”
Kang said the primary concern at The Coffee Bean was the quality.
The Coffee Bean is open 7am to 10pm and serves cheesecake using genuine Philadelphia cream cheese.
“Maintaining quality is a high priority for Coffee Bean. We believe The Coffee Bean will be a success. Suddenly, everybody is opening coffee shops. Maintaining quality is the key,” Kang said.
Another Coffee Bean will open next year in the new Aeon Japanese shopping center adjacent to Sofitel.
“We also signed a location placement with Vattanac Tower,” Kang said.
“Sean is an amazing brand ambassador, and he is ten thousand per cent committed to the brand,” Kaufman said.
“When you got a guy of high integrity who is committed to the brand, you’re going to get good results. We have great comfort in knowing we have somebody really good in this market.”
The Coffee Bean sources its coffee from more than 40 countries in what Kaufman calls “The Coffee Belt.”
“We buy directly from the farms, package ourselves, and blend ourselves in Los Angeles. There’s no two bags alike, we’re an origin flavored coffeecompany. When you look at the names of our coffees, we call out the name of the farm.
There’s an expectation on the taste. Everybody who touches the company has a better life,” Kaufman said.
“We tell our coffee and tea buyers to buy the best in the world and they have the incredible freedom to source the best stuff in the world. They are focused on quality and taste. The number one pri-ority is great quality products.”
More than 30 different types of coffees are sold, mostly of single origin, according to Kaufman.
“The wonderful thing about coffee is that it tastes quite different from bag to bag, and the customers are knowledgeable about coffee just like others are about wine,” he said.
Kaufman says the best in-gredients never make it to the public.
“Our Ceylon teas come from field 17 in Sri Lanka. We believe that is heaven for teas. Those special Sri Lankan teas have never been made available to the public market,” Kaufman said.