It feels like they’re own: Coffix founder on branching out with $2.50 coffee

As a passionate coffee drinker and with an ambition to practice ethical business, three years ago Natan Yehezkely decided to take the cost out of the daily coffee fix by creating Coffix.

The café franchise has a standardised $2.50 price for a cup of barista made coffee, no matter the type, milk used or flavour included, in the hopes of reducing the money spent on satisfying the 3.7 kilogrammes of coffee beans each New Zealander drinks in a year on average, according to Traveller.

Yehezkely knows first-hand how the amount can add up, having worked in retail for 25 years and buying takeaway coffees which only had the coffee and paper cup to show for the $4 he parted ways with—or $4.50 if he added cold milk.

“There was no real reason for the coffee to be that expensive,” he says, giving the example of Europe where a takeaway coffee can be picked up for as low as one Euro.

He also saw a shift in consumers’ attitudes towards coffee and the activity of going to a café, with many popping in every day to get a takeaway coffee and reducing the significance of visiting a café to sit down and enjoy the experience.

“I think coffee has moved from being something that is in the entertainment budget to something that is like a need, something you do daily,” he says.

On a mission to drop the price of coffee, he set about on eight months of research to learn about the industry and who the key players are, complete a barista course and establish what the key components are that make overheads really high. His thinking being that if you take those away and leave only the coffee, the price can afford to be low.

Included in those unnecessary additions that contribute to high overheads are crockery, waiters and menus, which you won’t find in the 11, soon to be 13, Coffix stores across Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga and Wellington.

And for those who aren’t convinced that dropping the price below the usual $4-plus is sustainable, Yehezkely is confident about the quality of the coffee, which he says causes it to sell enough to make profitable.

The first two stores on K’ Road and Elliot Street opened in 2014 with thin weeks of each other and at the time it wasn’t Yehezkely intention to start franchising. However, with such a bold business strategy, people were eager to find out what it was all about and how they could get into it for themselves, so the evolution to a franchise began.

In doing that, Yehezkely took on the role of franchise manager, while the CEO role is held by Amit Zamirly. Yehezkely says he’s at some stage worked on all aspects of the business but he’s been privileged to step away from the things like accounting and stock taking to focus more on what he enjoys doing.

“I like to talk about coffees, I like to tell people about what we’re doing, I like to meet new people and I like to help people set up their new businesses.”

He says there’s a satisfaction in seeing franchisees grow and make a happy living and recalls watching as his first franchisees, Daniel and Rhona Danin achieve success with their first shop, and going on to open their second.

Daniel says he was drawn to Coffix’s people-centric mode and bought the K’ Road store off Yehezkely in September 2015 after six months of leasing it and learning the management ropes. With the store going from strength to strength, the pair opened a branch in Hohipere Street in February this year.

It’s been quite the learning curve for Daniela and Rhonda, with administration and sourcing and retaining staff, but they say the security that the franchise brings cannot be underestimated.

“Natan and Amit have supported us every step of the way and are always happy to help and share their knowledge,” says Daniel.

And that’s not to say Yehezkely and Zamirly hold control over all aspects of the franchise stores. While there are infrastructures in place in terms of operating systems, Yehezkely doesn’t want that to come through in the customers’ experiences.

He says some franchise cafes are all computerised and hold no differentiation from branch to branch, whereas each of the Coffix branches have a sense of character.

Some Coffix stores have paintings on the walls, others have photos or plants, and some have seating while some don’t.

“We know that we’re never going to be a full standard like other franchise systems which is a bit of a risk but we’re happy because I think it gives character and it allows that coffee branch to be a local place and [the franchisee]feels like they own it, they have more sense of ownership over it,” he says.

Despite the personalisation, Yehezkely is confident the Coffix brand remains clear and one the thing that is visibly common across all the stores is the use of certified organic, fair trade coffee beans as it’s always been Coffix’s goal to do good and support the bean growers.

The beans are sourced from reputable, certified fair trade organic cooperatives in the Pacific region and South America. And when made, the coffee is served in biodegradable takeaway cups or reusable glass cups to further that commitment to ethical practices.

It also has a commitment to healthy eating with the food on offer including bliss balls, sandwiches and gluten free brownies.

Moving into the future, Yehezkely is working to make the systems even more streamlined and therefore easier for franchisees. He wants them to spend less time on administrative work and more time on quality coffee and quality customer experiences because from all his years working in retail, he knows the customer always comes first.

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