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With Small-Store Success, Caribou Coffee Launches US Franchising


A “Caribou Cabin” concept store. Caribou Coffee piloted the Caribou Cabins concepts in 2019 and says it has more location in development.

Minneapolis-born roaster and retail chain Caribou Coffee is for the first time offering franchising in the United States.

While Caribou franchise locations exist in other countries, and non-company-operated stores currently do exist in the U.S. through licensing arrangements, this is the first time the 29-year-old chain has held itself out as a franchisor domestically.

With 718 locations throughout the world, Caribou currently has 314 company-owned locations, primarily located throughout the Upper Midwest region.

The aggressive move into franchising follows two major shifts for the Caribou brand.

The first came last month, when Caribou Coffee owner JAB Holding Company combined Caribou with two of its other fast-casual acquisitions, Panera Bread and Einstein Bagels, to form Panera Brands. The move precipitated speculation that the combined companies were heading towards an IPO, although that has not yet come to pass.

JAB, which has ties to the billionaire Reimann family in Germany, acquired Caribou back in 2012.

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The second major change leading up to the franchise push was the 2019 launch of the Caribou Cabins retail store concept. Following the vision of Caribou CEO John Butcher, the Caribou Cabins are small-footprint retail stores with limited or no seating and an emphasis on drive-through and quick service.

“The Caribou Cabin design coupled with the concept’s traditional coffeehouse prototype, featuring a larger footprint for sit-down dining, offers franchisees flexible offerings that can cater to the unique criteria of their market and accelerate growth,” the company said in an announcement of the franchise launch today.