Gloria Jean's Coffees Harnessing Local TV
Originally started in Chicago by Ed and Gloria Jean Kvetko in 1979, Gloria Jean’s Coffees is a 59-unit coffee chain that’s now based in Southern California, largely mall focused and looking to continue the growth it began in 2015.
Brian Balconi, vice president of the brand since last fall, said the company is known for its variety and flavors, as well as roasting its own beans in house. During our interview he added that the roasting happens about 100 feet away from him, undoubtedly boosting the ambiance of the corporate office.
Of its 59 stores, 47 are located in malls. Balconi said contrary to many brands looking to minimize mall exposure, they remain “a great place for us to put our coffee houses” and said the brand will continue opening new stores in shopping malls.
“We have a lot of history in shopping malls,” he said. “Customers need a break from shopping and want to treat themselves in a great environment—it becomes part of people’s daily routine.”
Outside malls, he said the brand is open to both suburban and urban locations, but that the key is traffic counts—pedestrian and auto-based. Some of the company’s new locations have also added drive-throughs, primarily in suburban environments.
Of the four new Gloria Jean’s locations opened in 2015, each came from an existing franchisee—something the company hopes to continue this year. Beyond the existing herd, Balconi said the company has launched a franchise recruitment effort to attract new franchisees from outside of the system.
As a non-enthusiastic, occasional coffee drinker, I asked Balconi for his read on industry trends. He again touched on the importance of roasting their own beans, but added that espresso-based drinks continue to be a trend.
To gain some free PR, the brand has started “free coffee for a year” promotions and also worked with television stations in its territories where operators appear on morning TV programs and make drinks on air with the hosts.
“The benefit from these TV appearances is that when you have a social media [component], individual franchisees can post it to their Facebook so it gets some continuing mileage,” he said.
Gloria Jean’s lags some other notable franchised coffee chains in terms of unit growth, so it will be curious to see how this brand fares with other players such as Scooter’s encroaching on their turf. Getting some free publicity is never a bad place to start, and a good idea for any company that feels its products or people might play well on TV.