In Focus
EXECUTIVE INSIGHTS | Staff Reporter, Australia

Minor DKL Food Group CEO: Digital transformation “central” to The Coffee Club's overall strategic agenda

Digital menus and table ordering systems are in the works to enhance the brand’s connection with customers.

For The Coffee Club (TCC), their long-term growth goes hand-in-hand with its digital transformation.

Celebrating its 30th birthday this year, one of Australia’s largest coffee chains says it is now in its second year of a multi-year transformation to drive itself to deliver “the world’s most customer-connected café experience.”

Aside from offering the latest product innovations through Uber Eats and Deliveroo, their VIP Club loyalty programme is also undergoing a digital facelift, aiming to reward customers “in more ways”.

Through the digital investment, The Coffee Club looks to reach 300 stores in Australia, with 200 overseas, while refreshing our branding and store design to re-engage families and millennials.

Leading the charge is Minor DKL Food Group CEO Nick Bryden, who spoke to QSR Media about their digital transformation, how Asia fits in their 1,000-store expansion plan, and how they intend to leverage their brand in other markets.

QSR Media: Can you tell us the latest in TCC's expansion plans in Australia and in Asia?

The Coffee Club’s overarching goal is to reach 1,000 stores within five years.  This year, Thailand will become our biggest overseas market, reaching 70 stores, overtaking New Zealand where we have 63.

In the past five months, we’ve introduced The Coffee Club into five new markets in Asia and the Middle East, including China, Indonesia, Cambodia, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Our expansion continues in Australia and we’re looking to open another 15 stores, mainly in Victoria and New South Wales. This would bring our tally in Australia to 300, with 200 outside of Australia. Both the stores in Australia and abroad are a mixture of our large format café-bar-restaurants, mid-sized cafés, and some small format kiosks. 

QSR Media: TCC made headlines for the past regarding its massive plan in Vietnam. How does the brand plan to differentiate itself in a market known for its competitive local coffee scene?

Success in any market begins with the right partner, and in Vietnam we have a joint venture between our parent company, Minor DKL Group and Vietnam Investments Group, a highly experienced food and beverage operator. Our concept - built on good food, great service and excellent coffee - delivered in a relaxed contemporary environment, has proven to be relevant across multiple overseas markets.

Our secret is adapting to local markets through deep customer immersion led by our international culinary director. Where most western brands might adapt 10-20% of their offering, we adapt 50% or more to appease local tastes.

This is more work for us initially, but leads to an experience which takes the DNA of our Australian concept and matches it with products that are highly relevant to local consumers. In Vietnam, we’re confident our menu, store design and customer experience will stand out from the existing café offers. 

QSR Media: Any other markets aside from Asia that TCC is keen on exploring?
We are always open to opportunities with the right partners anywhere in the world. We have outstanding people with in-depth experience in global markets to support any launch, provided it makes sense commercially for us and the partner.

We still see huge potential for growth in Asia, including continuing to grow in existing markets, such as China, or markets where we are yet to launch. As Minor DKL has a foothold in the food and hotel industry in Europe and the United Kingdom, there is great potential for The Coffee Club to launch in those markets.

QSR Media: Any investments - tech-related or otherwise - that TCC is doing to further strengthen its brand across markets?

Digital transformation is central to our overall strategic agenda and represents our biggest single investment. Since I joined Minor DKL 18 months ago, we’ve invested substantially in people, platforms and partnerships to strengthen the fundamentals within our IT and data infrastructure.

The next stage for us, which will really drive our future growth, is the implementation of digital technologies that enhance our connection with customers. That starts with the launch of our loyalty app, which is our main project this year, but will also involve test and learn projects such as digital menus and at-table ordering.

Given our scale, brand strength, and the large loyalty base we have developed over the past 30 years, we believe we have a unique opportunity to leverage technology to drive growth and realise our vision of delivering the most customer-connected café experience.

We’re also investing in store design, branding, training, operations systems, support and customer feedback, among others. Above all, I’m most excited about our investments in our people. I truly believe we’re building one of Australia’s best franchising teams to achieve success in both Australian and global markets.

QSR Media: Any issues within the industry you are keeping a close eye on?

Retail continues to be a challenging environment due to constrained consumer spending, the impact of the inquiries in the banking and franchising sectors, and escalating rent and labour costs.

We believe, however, The Coffee Club’s future is bright. We are focused on continuing to leverage the strength of our brand, build solid relationships with our franchisees, nurture relationships with our supply and leasing partners to strengthen unit economics, and deliver on our strategic transformation agenda.

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