AS the company rapidly expands and competes strongly with fastfood multi-conglomerates KFC and McDonalds, Coolabah Tree Cafe has been awarded the Gold Coast Business Excellence Retail Award.
CEO Andrew (pictreud) says Coolabah Tree has become the only consistent choice for interstate travellers who wish to skip the fast food offerings at super service stations and enjoy what he calls a meal of substance.
This belief in Coolabah’s unique market offering has been pivotal to the chain’s rapid expansion across four states.
“We don’t compete with them in all the locations, but at least half our cafes are in these large travel centres. Our brand has become strong enough that when developers are building a new servo, they know to call McDonalds, KFC and Coolabah Tree,” says Grant.
“A major part of our point-of-difference is to do more of the other foods. We serve a higher quality product; more of an ‘Aussie’ menu. We don’t put ourselves up into the Coffee Club restaurant market; we’re in the middle ground and provide the best of both worlds.
“When we started we’d recognised the market gap, particularly out on the highways which only offered ‘fuel and food’ establishments. We knew that gradually we would get out there as the quality alternative.”
Commencing in 2001, Coolabah Tree now has 16 cafes including Yatala and Coomera, turning over $21 million and employing 350 staff, across Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia.
With five outlets running successfully under Coolabah’s new franchise structure, Grant expects to open 10 new stores in the next 12 months.
“We will always retain about 10-12 company owned stores, but having now developed a strong franchise model we’re at that stage where we are really ready to go,” he says.
“People are knocking on our doors wanting to take over our cafes. Our strategy will be to establish a cafe as a company-owned outlet and then franchise it off when the timing is right. This allows us to ensure its operating to our standards before a new owner/operator can come in and take it to the next level.
“Consistency is definitely the most important factor when undergoing expansion as we are. It’s vitally important that customers will get the same quality of food and service at whichever Coolabah Tree Cafe they dine at.”
Grant says the corporate team was ‘surprised’ at results from recent market research that indicated the company’s customer demographic was far wider than truck drivers, ‘grey nomads’ and other adult travellers.
“Consumers aged as young as their early teens regular enjoy our food, and Coolabah Tree actually has a strong customer following with health conscious young women,” he says.
“The last couple of years we’ve expanded our range to include everything from deep fried products to full roast meals and this has appeared to expand our target market. The only market we don’t cater for is the young children, ‘happy meals’ demographic.”
Grant says the company is shifting its structure from a ‘family-owned business’ into a corporate entity and recently moved into a new 287sqm head office at Upper Coomera.
For the full list of Gold Coast Business Excellence Award winners, grab your copy of Gold Coast Business News July.
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