The coffee entrepreneur discusses how he helped create one of the most popular chains in the Midwest

Biggby Coffee’s co-CEO and co-founder Mike McFaul spoke with host Barbara Castiglia of the “The Main Course” podcast, about the rise of his coffee chain. Founded in Lansing, Michigan over 27 years ago, Biggby Coffee is today one of the most popular coffee chains in the Midwest. McFaul said decades ago that he jumped into an industry that was fairly new. Coffee brewing from the ground up took a lot of work, and most importantly, it took more than two business partners to figure out that they could expand and operate their company under the franchise model.

“It was a natural fit for my partner and I. We both tend to be teachers, and love working with other people as partners, and the franchise business model is pretty much that,” McFall said.

Under the direction of Fred DeLuca, founder of the Subway franchise, McFall added that they were able to see the positive benefits of the franchise, and why the framework allowed them to grow significantly. Biggby Coffee franchisees are equipped with their own skill sets to make a thriving business, and McFall said he prefers that above all else.

“Franchisors, locally, aren’t your employees, that’s for sure, and they are independent entrepreneurs… they all come with a certain degree of success in another area,” McFall said. “They are very experienced people and we really like that. There is a lot of energy in the franchise business model in this way.”

A highlight of Biggby Coffee’s success is its choice of menu item names, creative terminology for their latte drinks which often includes pop culture terms, such as Caramel Marvel. But the company’s most remarkable achievement came at the height of its business boom. Initially called Beaner’s Coffee, after about a decade of operations, McFall and his partner realized they needed to change the company’s entire name. Unfortunately, the former part of the original business name is also a racial slander of Mexican Americans.

“It was something we were obviously not aware of originally when we formed it, we became aware of it very quickly.

After much discussion between him and his partner, McFall decided that a name change would happen and that every location he was in would become Biggby Coffee. McFall said his eyes were open and “it became very clear that you didn’t want to have a name in any way that detracted from anyone.”

However, the name change contractually required the franchisees to bill the cost of the change which had to be reflected in the signage, and the price was very high. But it was a commitment he was willing to make, and McFall committed nearly $1 million to ensuring that all of the Biggby Coffee franchises were under the new name.

McFall stated that the franchise business model was the best decision for his company. Although he claims that not every franchisor can have a positive experience, and has faced some challenges in the past, he added that to ensure a profitable franchise business gets to know the best types of partners they can collaborate with.

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