BY RESTAURANT DEVELOPMENT AND DESIGN – Vitality Bowls offers franchise options to add lucrative coffee options.

If franchisees can’t or decline to install a full-blown coffee bar, Vitality Bowls has another way for them to benefit from specialty coffee sales: systems for serving cold-brewed coffee on tap. Photo courtesy of Vitality BowlsSeeking to claim their share of specialty coffee sales, many restaurant companies are buying espresso machines and adding a few premium coffee selections to their menus. Superfoods-focused Vitality Bowls, a 27-unit fast-casual concept with stores in Northern California, Atlanta, Miami, Colorado, Indiana, Texas and Nevada, went further. A little over a year ago, the brand added dedicated coffee bars to its prototype.

Uriah Blum, vice president of operations for the San Ramon, Calif.-based chain, says that given how competitive the coffee segment has become, his team knew that just adding coffee wouldn’t be enough. “We started in our flagship corporate store, and there’s a lot of coffee competition right on our street, so we wanted to do something nobody else was doing,” he says.

For Vitality Bowls, whose specialties include acai bowls, superfruit smoothies, cold-pressed juices, and healthful salads and sandwiches, that meant extending its core sensibilities to its coffee program. For starters, all of its coffee is organic, fair trade and non-GMO; almond, soy and coconut milk are offered; and sweeteners, used sparingly, are all natural and organic. Traditional espresso drinks are offered, but Blum went further to develop beverages that incorporate some of the chain’s signature ingredients. The result is a Superfood Coffee menu with selections such as Acai Latte, Superfood Mocha and a selection of organic teas.

Comprising roughly 150 square feet of space and positioned in the stores’ lobbies, the coffee bars are designed by the company’s in-house architect to be key front-of-house features. Franchisees are encouraged, but not required, to add them.

For those who don’t install the full coffee bar, a second option is available: organic cold-brewed coffee and kombucha on tap. Installed near the point-of-sale register, the cold-brew program merchandises itself, Blum says, and enables employees to provide samples while customers place their orders.

“It’s up to the franchisee, but it also depends on location and, in some cases, what’s already in the surrounding area,” Blum says of the full coffee bar feature. “Some developments have an existing coffee concept that has exclusivity, so we can’t add it even if we want to. It also depends on infrastructure. Adding the full bar requires plumbing, water, drainage, etc., which may be cost-prohibitive. The tap system is a good option in such cases.”

So far, seven Vitality Bowl locations feature the full coffee bar, and Blum says response has been positive. “We now get people who might have come in to pick up an acai bowl or something for breakfast and then are headed someplace else to grab coffee,” he says. “Having our own unique coffee program makes us more of a one-stop shop. We just have to make sure the product is consistently great. There are a lot of coffee snobs out there now. If they try us once and we don’t deliver, they won’t try us again.”

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