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Exclusive interview with Aiden Keegan, CEO of Esquires Coffee UK

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Esquires Coffee arrived in the UK in 2000 and due to its proven success in Canada, where it was established in 1993, it was operating as a franchise model from day 1!

There are currently 48 Esquires stores in the UK with over 30 franchisees, many of whom are now multi store franchisees. The company is looking to add another 20+ stores in 2022.

And the man in charge of helping Esquires achieve this is Aiden Keegan, CEO of Esquires Coffee UK.

Aiden has been with Esquires since 2004. He started his Esquires journey at Esquires Ireland, where he helped the then owner grow the network from 2 to 15 franchised stores. Of which, 4 of the stores made the top 5 of Esquires worldwide for turnover and profitability.

Having been acquired by CGF in 2013, Aiden’s role was expanded shortly afterwards to operational support for the Master Franchisees in the Gulf region including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain. In September 2018, he became MD of Esquires in the UK.

“As MD of Esquires in the UK my overall role and responsibility is to protect franchisee’s investments by delivering a model that gives them a good return on that investment,” commented Aiden.

“The core elements of this is providing a reasonable cost of entry to the business and as far as we can control, an ongoing cost structure as well as attractive offer that will help drive the business on the ground.”

“Our target is to have over 100 stores by the end of 2023 and with 20+ in the pipeline for next year that seems more and more achievable.”

“While this may not seem as ambitious as it otherwise might, expanding as a franchise operator is a slightly slower, more deliberate approach than a corporate landgrab. We have an obligation to protect a franchisee’s investment by ensuring as best we can that each new store will be a success and therefore it can take time and patience to find the right store in their chosen area.”

Reaching their milestones hasn’t come easy but in the busy coffee shop and café space, Esquires has been working hard to stand out from the competition by moving away from being a coffee focused business, to becoming known for great food and as a destination venue that caters for everyone.

“Preparing fresh food on site, adds value to the consumer and margin to our franchisees. That and our local community emphasis has helped us compete against the larger corporates,” commented Aiden.

Esquires measures the franchise’s success by the success of their franchisees and their satisfaction with the brand.

“Franchisees are our de facto advocates in that anyone thinking of joining Esquires can simply go to one of our stores and talk to a current franchisee. The number of franchisees either currently with or seeking another store with us tells its own story.“

With success can come challenges, and like most hospitality businesses in the past few years, Esquires has had its challenges and worked hard to support their franchisees throughout the pandemic.

“There is no hiding from how difficult the pandemic has been for our industry, and we are no exception to that. In terms of support, I personally handled all landlord conversations and negotiations to take the pressure off franchisees who had enough to deal with.”

“We also suspended all royalty last year for a number of months when the industry was allowed to reopen to give franchisees time to get the business back up and running, and deal with the additional expense that the new regulations dictated.”

With a pipeline of 20+ stores for 2022, identifying suitable partners is crucial to Esquires success. The practical elements of running a store can be taught but the individual, who’s personality will permeate through their business is what will most likely define how the business does in the long run. Luckily for Esquires, they have a lot of good people on their side already!

“There are of course certain tangible items that are required to become a franchisee but at the end of the day, our business is built on repeat custom and our franchisee’s ability to nurture this on the ground and through their team. So, for me it is about the first impression and personality of a potential franchisee. I ask myself, would I go back to this person’s coffee house for lunch or a coffee?”

“Our business, with the right cost structures in place (and it is our job to provide that!) provides a very healthy return on investment for franchisees while providing them with a nice, social work environment. The number of multi store franchisees we now have that started with a single store speaks to this quite well.”

So, what does the future hold for Esquires.

“My focus is on national expansion and, as well as the above store expansion, we do also have in place a regional developer program which effectively involves partnering with, for want of a better phrase, a regional franchisor who operates under licence from ourselves to develop a certain territory.”

“In the regions where this is already in place it has been shown to be hugely successful and we would hope to roll it out across the remaining regions in the UK over the next 12-18 months.”

Interested and want to know more about Esquires Coffee?

The Esquires Coffee profile outlines all aspects of their franchise opportunity and allows you to contact them for further information or to ask a question.

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