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The Secret to BIGGBY® COFFEE’s Impressive Franchise Growth? Love.

By prioritizing the needs of franchisees, the 25-year-old coffee brand has become one of most attractive opportunities for lifestyle-oriented entrepreneurs.

By Ben Warren1851 Franchise Managing Editor
SPONSOREDUpdated 9:09AM 03/19/21

Twenty-five years ago, the first BIGGBY® COFFEE store opened in East Lansing, Michigan. An immediate hit among residents of the college town, the coffee shop quickly opened up a sister store. Then another. In the quarter century since, BIGGBY has continued to steadily expand, opening more than 240 locations across nine states. And despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 crisis, BIGGBY continues to grow, and it does so with some of the happiest franchisees in the industry.

The secret to the brand’s prolonged growth? “It’s a little unconventional,” admits BIGGBY® COFFEE Co-Founder and Co-CEO Bob Fish, “but as a franchise, we have really fine-tuned our system to combine business and love.” 

In the business world, where just about every aspect of an operation can be measured and optimized through metrics and data analysis, most brands might see love as a dangerously intangible concept to build a franchise around, but BIGGBY’s long-running success can largely be attributed to that focus. The brand prides itself on being purpose-driven and supporting its franchisees, employees and customers in building a life they love.

Recently, BIGGBY® COFFEE underwent a self-audit. But it wasn’t a financial or even operational audit. It was a culture audit. The brand wanted to ensure that it was living up to its “commitment to genuine care” — the phrase BIGGBY’s team uses to describe its heightened support for store owners. “That’s how seriously we take this,” Fish said. “We are constantly holding ourselves accountable and looking for ways to improve not just the business but the owner experience.” 

The key, says BIGGBY’s other co-founder and co-CEO, Mike McFall, is understanding what entrepreneurs love about running a business. “People get into franchising because they have a dream of owning their own business, or because they want to escape the grind of the corporate world, or, in our case, maybe because they have a genuine passion for our coffee. The point is, they’re not just looking for another job, they’re looking for an opportunity they believe will be a strong asset, one that will support them in building a life they love and provide them with a lifestyle they can be proud of and truly enjoy.”  

BIGGBY’s franchise model is designed to support the kind of lifestyle most entrepreneurs are looking for. And while the meaning of success may vary across franchisees, McFall says BIGGBY’s corporate team is well-equipped to provide franchisees everything they need to get where they want to be.

“Some franchisees are hungry for growth and want to be the biggest operator in our system, while others might be more focused on working with their communities and becoming a beloved hangout in their town,” McFall said. “Whatever their goals are, they are going to get direct, personal support from our team.”

That support includes a dedicated operations team and a dedicated tech team, both of which work directly with franchisees, day in and day out. BIGGBY also has its own point-of-sales system — allowing franchisees to fully customize their own POS operation without being tied to a third-party platform — and an in-house graphic design team that can quickly produce marketing materials that meet brand specifications. 

Another way BIGGBY has been working to support its franchisees is through the rollout of a store buildout designed for maximum efficiency. The recently introduced modular unit drastically increases speed to market and costs significantly less to build than standard models for BIGGBY’s big-name competitors.

“The modular unit allows new franchise owners to get started efficiently,” said McFall. “They just connect plumbing and electricity, and they are up and running. You get all the visibility of a standalone building for what it would normally cost to build an in-line strip-center location.” 

That streamlined model also limits the construction time and costs, and it has significantly sped up the process of getting franchisees open for business.

“When a new franchisee opens a BIGGBY® COFFEE store, we’re able to tell them, ‘Here is your new business, and here is everything you need to make it great: recipes, marketing, POS, tech support — everything,’” said Fish.

But even as BIGGBY® COFFEE introduces game-changing new innovations for store owners, the franchise remains true to its roots, including a high-energy, community-oriented vibe with bright colors, fun music and cheerful, welcoming staff at every location — a distinct departure from the corporate conveyor-belt atmosphere other coffee brands have migrated to in recent years. This, Fish says, is a key to the brand’s success at a time when other brands are struggling.

Because of BIGGBY’s focus on franchisee support, the brand has become a particularly appealing opportunity for first-time franchisees who are looking for durable and scalable businesses in an uncertain economic landscape.

“When COVID-19 hit, a lot of brands started pulling back, but we managed to navigate the crisis effectively and move forward,” said Fish. “How? By holding true to our core values, including love and care, and by supporting all of our people in building a life that they love.”

McFall says that the brand’s continued success throughout the COVID-19 crisis “has really been proof positive of the unique value of our model. Today’s franchisees don’t just see this crisis as a tragic, one-time thing. They remember 2008, and they know that there’s always the risk of another crisis around the corner, so they are looking for brands that have proven that they can continue to innovate, be flexible and offer support and solutions in any scenario.”

To ensure BIGGBY® COFFEE remains flexible and ready to evolve, Fish says the franchise has been designed to promote communications and incorporate feedback from franchisees at every opportunity. Franchisee committees regularly meet with the brand’s corporate team to discuss potential improvements and share best practices, and every franchisee has a direct line to the franchisor. 

“We work closely with our franchisees not just for their benefit but for the benefit of the entire franchise system,” Fish said. “This isn’t just a ‘we hear you’ thing — our franchise owners play an active role in guiding our operational model.”

As BIGGBY® COFFEE continues to grow, Fish says the brand is doubling down on its commitment to franchisee support and is actively looking for new ways to achieve its goal of working with the happiest franchise owners in the industry. After all, that commitment goes both ways. 

“Happy franchisees are the most effective operators,” Fish said. “All of the passion and support we invest in our franchisees comes right back to the brand. It’s like anything else — the more you give, the more you get back.”

The initial investment to franchise with BIGGBY® COFFEE ranges from $189,550 to $378,600, including a $25,750 to $38,750  franchise fee. For more information on franchising with BIGGBY® COFFEE, please visit


BIGGBY® COFFEE®, based in East Lansing, Mich., was started with a single store on March 15, 1995. One year later, and on the cusp of opening a second location, Bob Fish and Michael McFall, on a handshake and $4,000, decided to franchise the concept. BIGGBY® COFFEE’s cultural values of Make Friends, Have Fun, B Yourself and Share Great Coffee help coffee-lovers and the coffee-curious alike benefit from a less pretentious and fun approach to the standard gourmet cafe paradigm. Besides connoisseur-worthy drinks with names like Teddy Bear® and Caramel Marvel®, BIGGBY® baristas provide a unique experience focused on brightening their customers’ day and supporting them in building a life they love. The “Big ‘B’” on the orange background caught on, and today BIGGBY® COFFEE has more than 240 cafes across many states including Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Kentucky, and Florida. In 2018, BIGGBY® launched an Area Representative Program and currently has 8 Area Representatives in 6 states.