In Focus
EXECUTIVE INSIGHTS | Kevin Santos, Australia

How Zarraffa's Coffee is envisioning the future of drive-thru

Founder Kenton Campbell also revealed when their first-ever app will go live.

Zarraffa’s Coffee is putting a heavier premium on its drive-thru business in the next few years, teasing plans to offer “entry-level”, less expensive opportunities for potential franchisees to opt in, and coupling it with much-needed technology.

Doing “exceptionally well” in the past months, founder Kenton Campbell stressed the value of having invested in drive-thru years ago, but revealed he did not initially see how critical it would be.

“If you had said ten years ago that this would be 100% our future, I wouldn't have been able to tell you that that's the way,” he told QSR Media in an exclusive interview.

“The cost of getting into a full store drive-thru is quite expensive. But, we believe that we've got an answer to that and we'll be able to work hard on that in 2021...bringing an opportunity where either managers or people that aren't in the brand right now can enter without huge financial difficulty,” he adds, stating the company will release more details next year after talking to its franchise partners.

At the height of the restrictions, sales from drive-thru shot up to over 90% from 65% during pre-pandemic times. At present, it slightly went down to 80%, still a significant number. Gaining new customers was a clear factor, Campbell said.

“Now we're thinking, maybe we will keep a lot of those people because they weren't sure about us, they didn't know about us, or they thought that we're just a big chain that didn't care,” he said.

Experiencing challenges on the shopping centre front also informed Campbell’s view on pushing more on drive-thru and bringing it forward. Citing high rents and end of lease periods, they had closed 20 stores, most of which are corporate-owned and in those locations.

“We had some coming to the end of their lease term, some that we believe the landlord was being unfair. What we did was just essentially come to the conclusion that it was time to get out of the centers that never really cared about us long-term as a brand,” he said.

It recently opened a store in Tamworth, NSW and will open another one in Bethania in QLD, where they will debut digital signages. Zarraffa’s will end the year with 72 stores overall. Dual drive-thru lanes, something the brand has dabbled with in the past, remain an option. But Campbell says they prefer to “stick to what [they] know” whilst COVID-19 remains.

Elevating Zarraffa’s food and drink range is also a key process in migrating their business to offer greater convenience. The brand has been trialling single origin coffees as part of their Black Label line, starting with the Kenyan Ntongoro (pronounced en-tonn-goro). More merchandise and work on their tea range is also on Campbell’s list of priorities, which he hopes to culminate between winter and Christmas next year.

App in development, Mexican concept in the works
Campbell also confirmed that their first-ever app is in development and is set to release early next year, expected to synergise with their off-premise strategy.

The past months have also been an opportunity for Campbell to open Sugar Creek Smokehouse, offering a locally-sourced smoked meats dubbed ‘Aus-Tex’ (Australian-Texan) style done out of two repurposed shipping containers.

This, along with Zarraffa’s national headquarters and its bespoke café experience Kiwanda, serve as the anchor tenants of Campbell’s upcoming Distillery Road Market (DRM) dining destination at Eagleby, expected to open late end-2021.

“It's been a hobby of mine for a few years. I wanted to find a few of the food concepts that we could keep ourselves and [that] I could do at a high level,” he shared, also narrating how they are experiencing good numbers before going public with an announcement.

A Mexican-style cantina is also in the works, but like Sugar Creek and Kiwanda, these will be standalone concepts at this stage.

“I'll never say never. But I want this place [DRM] to be special...a real marketplace for arts, crafts, music,” he said. “Right now for the next three to five years, there's definitely no way. It just is not even in my mind because there's so much to do here. And I don't want to take my mind away.” ###

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