IT may already have been one of the planet’s best-known brand names, but two local businessmen were the first in the world to become Starbucks franchisees.
Mark Hepburn and Anil Patil opened their 10th branch of the coffee chain last week in Richmond Hill, Bournemouth.
It was only in February last year that they opened the world’s first Starbucks franchise, in Liphook, Hampshire.
“Up to that point they’d done licence agreements with corporate companies,” said Mr Hepburn.
“Traditionally, on the high street, they’ve done them themselves. We were the franchise test bed for the world.”
Mr Hepburn, 42, has 25 years of experience in the fast food business, for a mixture of corporate operations and franchises.
Mr Patil, 40, was a barrister and his wife was a solicitor. They set up a Domino’s Pizza franchise and eventually owned 18 Domino’s operations, which Mr Patil sold last August.
The two got together through Mr Hepburn’s wife, a recruitment consultant, and soon heard that Starbucks was intending to launch franchising opportunities. Their company, 23.5 Degrees, named after the latitude measurement where the ‘coffee belt’ can be found.
The Liphook operation was a success and their third Starbucks franchise was at Bournemouth’s Triangle.
Both business partners live in the New Forest and have young families. When they came to Bournemouth on the Saturday of a bank holiday weekend and found all Richmond Hill’s eateries were full, they noticed two vacant units that could be knocked together to form a good sized coffee shop. They approached Starbucks with the idea.
The business has created 22 jobs, all filled locally.
“It’s 100 per cent our investment, our risk,” Mr Hepburn said of the franchising model.
“We recruit the staff, we train them, look after them, they work for us. What you get is the support, the help, the design.”
For the franchisee, the benefit is the brand name. “What franchising gives you is the ability to open your own business but with a bit less risk,” said Mr Hepburn.
“With franchises you get passionate business people on site.”
He said Starbucks takes a keen interest in the business. “They want to know what you’re like as an operator and a person. Starbucks are a very people-focussed business. They want to know the people working for the franchise represent the same ethic and integrity as if they were working for Starbucks,” he said.
Starbucks was in the news in 2012 over the revelations that it had paid no corporation tax for the previous three years. It responded by pledging to pay £20m in the following two years.
Mr Hepburn said: “My feeling is that they listen to the public, to their customers. Starbucks always tries to do the right thing; that’s our impression of Starbucks.”