Spinelli Coffee Company of Singapore stands out from other reputed coffee chains as the only one that roasts its own beans right here in Singapore. But more than just brewing great tasting coffee, the company also injects the right flavour of appeal to attract its own set of customers. Franchise Asia met with Freddy Ong, COO of Spinelli Coffee Company right after winning the prestigious ‘Franchisor of The Year Award 2010’ to know more about the Spinelli difference.
Congratulations on winning the ‘Franchisor of The Year Award 2010.’ Can you briefly share with us the background of Spinelli Coffee Company?
Spinelli Coffee Company had its origins in San Francisco in 1983. In February 1996, via a master franchise agreement with the YTC Group, the first outlet in Singapore was opened. Prior to the emergence of other premium coffee chains in Singapore, we foresaw the growth potential in the demand for premium coffee and we focused to become the regional coffee player in Asia. Thus, in 1998, two years after we opened our first outlet in Singapore, we invested in a state-of-the-art Probat-fired coffee roasting plant in Singapore to roast only 100% Arabica coffee beans.
In 2002, YTC Group took ownership of the Spinelli Coffee trademark and rapidly developed the brand by opening outlets strategically located in the central business district and downtown shopping malls.
Since we started, we have created more products to suit the local taste palate. Over the years, we have expanded our menu to include gourmet sandwiches, salads, soups, stews, American-style baked products such as muffins, scones, cakes and cookies to complement the coffee we serve. We also have an extensive beverage list to cater to all taste buds, from freshly brewed coffee to our signature Spins – coffee based beverages blended with ice.
Based on this winning business formula, we became one of the most sought after coffee chain and we have been receiving a lot of franchise enquiries.
Today, we are in Singapore, China and Indonesia, and will soon be represented in Indochina and other countries within the next eighteen months.
What were some of the key issues and challenges faced by Spinelli Coffee Company in becoming a franchisor?
Spinelli Coffee started as a specialty coffee chain and as the society becomes more affluent, we have to keep up with the customers’ taste preference by developing an even more extensive and varied menu.
As a franchisor, the challenge is in finding the right partner for each territory. These partners must love this business, be committed to a long term partnership, they must share our values and remain true to our mission statement. Hence, winning the Franchisor of the Year Award is a recognition that we have matured as a brand and our franchisees will definitely be more confident in us.
There are various international coffee brands in the market, e.g. Starbucks, San Francisco Coffee, Coffee Bean & Tea Leafs, etc. Is Spinelli after the same market segment? If so, how Spinelli Coffee Company stands out from these brands?
Spinelli Coffee is conveniently located in the central business district and popular downtown shopping malls. Our target audiences are mainly well travelled individuals with discerning taste. To stay relevant to our customers, we manage and operate our own central kitchen and bakery with a team of energetic and passionate staff churning out high quality new products to keep our customers excited.
Spinelli’s roots and strength are in the purveying, roasting, selecting and serving of premium Arabica coffees. Our coffee beans are selected from the finest plantations around the world, and meticulously roasted and blended by our master roasters right here in Singapore. Since coffee beans oxidises easily and lose their flavour quickly, freshness plays a crucial role in ensuring quality coffee. Having our own coffee roasting plant gives us the competitive edge. Serving fresh, good quality coffee while maintaining service consistency make our customers coming back for more.
There are various international as well as local coffee brands that are offering franchising opportunities. What is so unique about Spinelli Coffee Company to attract interested franchisee to take up the ‘coffee-drinking’ business?
The key factors are in our relentless effort in up-keeping the product quality and our belief in the brand. We have the ability and flexibility to create menus to cater to the local palates with our drinks and food programme without compromising the Spinelli culture.
More importantly, it is the mutual trust – they trust that we could support their businesses in their respective territories and we trust that they could grow the Spinelli brand into a global brand.
Spinelli Coffee Company ensures no build up of stockpiles, and that coffee beans are roasted only for the next seven days, thus ensuring that the freshest coffees are served and sold in the stores. How does this influence the taste of coffee?
Our in-house Master Roaster tastes literally hundreds of cups of coffees every year so as to bring our customers the highest quality and most refined coffees we are able to find.
The method used to taste coffee is known as cupping. It’s a thorough process of inspection and tasting designed to highlight mistakes made during the various stages of processing. During cupping, coffee is visually examined before and after roasting, coffee grounds are smelled before and after brewing, and the coffee is tasted repeatedly at different temperatures.
In most cases, we taste and cup a coffee several times before making a selection. Coffees with flavour taints won’t make the grade. Samples are often compared to coffees we already have in stock.
Spinelli Coffee Company won the ‘Franchisor of The Year Award 2010’. In your view, what are the criteria that made FLA to be chosen as the winner? And what does this mean to you as a franchisor?
The prestigious Franchisor of the Year Award is another testament to our achievements in our franchising programme and increasing brand presence in Singapore and overseas market.
We foresee strong growth potential in the Asia-Pacific region and with this distinguished award added to our portfolio, we are now even more ready to continue with our outlets and expansion plans, not only in the Asia-Pacific region but subsequently to other parts of the world.
What is the expansion plan for Spinelli Coffee Company in the coming years?
Moving forward, our immediate plan is to continue to set up more outlets either on our own or through franchisees within the Asia-Pacific region without compromising on the products quality and customer service to cater to the rising demand for specialty coffee.
Ultimately, our goal is to enter into all new markets and make Spinelli a global brand.
In what ways has FLA Singapore helped Spinelli Coffee Company to become a successful franchisor?
The association has taken a lot of initiatives to showcase Singapore owned brands on a global platform. We would be able to benchmark ourselves with other leading brands in the world. In a nutshell, FLA Singapore has provided a blueprint for the rest to follow.