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Golden days at Goldex Group with the promise of plenty more to come

Written by Martin Morris on Tuesday, 01 February 2022. Posted in Interviews

From mini market owner to CEO of a successful multi-brand and property company with value in excess of £100m, Diljit Brar of Goldex Group, has had a long and distinguished entrepreneurial career over the past three decades.

Golden days at Goldex Group with the promise of plenty more to come

From mini market owner to CEO of a successful multi-brand and property company with value in excess of £100m, Diljit Brar of Goldex Group, has had a long and distinguished entrepreneurial career over the past three decades. Diljit tells Elite Franchise his recipe for success and what he hopes will come next.

Though Diljit Brar describes his educational background as 'rather limited' - having left school at 16 - this has never held him back when it comes to entrepreneurial zeal - case in point being the opening of his first shop (a mini supermarket) in 1987 - an operation he sold two years later, having built a 200% retail sales uplift and achieving 100% on the sale price.

The really meaningful break though came in 1994 when he started his first newsagents in Lakeside Shopping centre, quickly followed by a second one in January 1995 in Bromley Shopping Centre. Two more stores followed in Lakeside, which helped him learn a lot about multi-site management.

As he puts it: "I sold all the newsagents in November 2003. This gave me time to concentrate on my property business and to look for the 'next big thing' ."

"Having spent 18 months researching, I finally decided on the Costa Franchise and we set to work in 2005 building the Costa business," he notes.

Which is where Goldex comes in. Starting out life in 2005, it was a relatively early entrant into the Costa franchise model, which already had around 15 franchisees at the time.

"In the early days my ambition was to find the territory and develop the stores at pace. Costa was growing rapidly and we wanted to move quickly to develop and occupy towns," he says, adding "Goldex had signed an ambitious roll out programme; we had agreed to develop 15 stores in 3 years. The model at the time was 5 stores in 5 years."

Interestingly, Goldex was the first Costa franchise that was allowed to design and build its own stores - in large part due to its in-house build team and experience in developing properties, which allowed them to develop stores at speed. 

"I learnt the business from the ground up, working in store as a manager and growing the teams for our future growth.  My earlier years in retail management were a great help and advantage to me," he notes. 

Fast forward 12 years and store 75 was opened. At that point the company took a breath, opting to sell some of the business. "We sold 24 stores, cleared all debts and then grew our Kaspa’s Desserts and property business faster," say Diljit; Kaspa's Desserts, for example, being the largest dessert chain in the world.

In the meantime, Diljit's remit has changed from being on site, developing and navigating the growth of stores, to a more office-based role, now managing and growing talent including the company's operational teams.

"Having such a great operational team now allows me to concentrate on looking for new opportunities both in the UK and internationally. We've recently acquired the Master Franchise for Costa to develop the brand in Morocco, where we already have a property based business.

"It has also allowed us to win many awards and to work in the community much more," he says.

Indeed, Goldex's modus operandi is to try and get involved with the local community in every new town where it opens a store, having sponsored, over the years, a number of sports, for example.

And then there's Costa’s own charity, which raises money to support coffee growing communities across the world. In 2019, Goldex raised enough money for the Costa Foundation to fund the building of a school in Ethiopia, which now educates over 800 primary aged students every year. 

Last year, meanwhile, the company won the BFA-HSBC Multi Unit Franchisee of the Year 2021, the first company ever to win twice. It also won the  BFA Franchisee of the Year –People’s Choice Award 2021, as well as the Costa Franchisee Achievement Award 2021.

While the aim of Goldex Group, self evidently, has always has been to grow the business into a successful and profitable company; it has also striven "to be the best F&B-Property and leisure brand we can possibly be," according to Diljit.

He adds: "Our property portfolio of commercial and domestic properties, both throughout the UK and internationally, now exceed the F&B business.

Unsurprisingly, however, the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact, Diljit noting it has made everyone and every company reassess themselves and their goals at least. 

"The Goldex business has fared fairly well through COVID-19, especially the Costa business and the property side of the company's operations, says Diljit, adding "Our property developments and building works were one of the businesses that didn’t have to stop working during the pandemic."

Brand recognition counts for a lot, of course and unsurprisingly, Costa was voted the most missed brand during lockdown. Equally unsurprising, customers quickly flocked back to its stores once lockdowns had been removed.

Goldex in the meantime has been the top performing Franchise company in Costa for L4L sales throughout the pandemic.

On the downside though staffing has been a major issue (as for almost every business worldwide), according to Diljit :"But we have given extra care and attention to our teams, focusing on the health and safety of our staff and customers. 

"We've increased our HR team and they've done an amazing job on staff welfare, staff recognition, awards and celebrations. This in turn has meant staff retention has been greatly improved," he notes.

Clearly Costa is a well-established and familiar brand both in the UK and internationally, as well as being trusted by consumers when it comes to delivering quality. "This is extremely important in the UK market," says Diljit, adding :"At Goldex, we have our own coffee training academy where we're  accredited to train our Baristas and Barista Maestros to the expected standard. This is integral in being able to deliver high quality products and service consistently across our stores."

In the meantime, when it comes to investment costs for would-be franchisees and the type of franchisee he's looking for, Diljit is to the point.

"Once we launch the franchise models of Goldex Fitness and Workspace by Goldex or any of the other new brands, we're only looking for a small New Store Opening fee (NSO). The NSO fee is to cover the costs of the on-boarding of the new franchisee (and) will be in the region of £10,000.

He adds: "We don’t believe in overcharging any of the new partners we wish to work with going forward as we want the relationship/partnership to be more of a 'friendship' as we'll be working closely together for many years. We want to make sure the partnership is mutually beneficial and profitable."

In terms of new franchisees, the first major hoop for them to negotiate is that Goldex will only be looking to work with established multi-site operators who've the experience and funds to develop the brand quickly. A minimum of five stores development is a requirement and part of the application process, according to Diljit.

He adds: "If you can qualify for the development requirements, all meetings with our team are free. You will not be required to pay any fees of any kind until we have agreed contracts and territories (at that stage, 50% of the NSO fee will become payable to cover contract and legal fees as well as training)."

Any franchise partner joining Goldex will be given as much time (within reason) as they need with Diljit in order to ask whatever questions and queries they may have. And they can spend time in the office - and in the stores - pre-sign up.

Meanwhile, four weeks of on site training will be provided for up to four of the operations team, covering all aspects of the business, including health and safety measures "and any other 'tools of the trade' to run our business," says Diljit.

Afterwards, ongoing support will be both on site and office based; two weeks on site after the first store opening and thereafter regular visits and checks to ensure the smooth and successful operation of the business. Yet as Diljit is quick to point out: "As we will only be working with proven multi-site operators from other fields, we expect them to have a good knowledge of operational and managerial skills."  

In reality it also means making sure you like the brand and want to work with the people you're going to partner with.

"It’s similar to a marriage; you will be tied together for a long time and there will be a lot of give and take. It will be a proper partnership and we are definitely in it together," says Diljit, further noting: "To ensure you have the right energy for what you're about to embark on we expect you to be able to develop multiple units at speed and have the ability to multi-task."

"We're far more experienced at selecting the right franchisee now and can provide the correct and full training for the individual. Everyone has different needs and we now go the extra mile to understand the prospective franchisee's needs.

"Our workbooks and H&S files are very comprehensive, compared to earlier days and it’s a 'fool's guide' to simple and easy success," says Diljit.

Yet even with the best laid plans growth doesn't occur in a vacuum, it's in part about leadership too; Diljit being of the belief that as you gain experience you'll learn how to delegate because if you don't, you'll fail to grow your business.

"I'm definitely a delegator now," he says, adding :" It doesn’t come easy but if you micromanage then you'll  never grow your business to any real scale.

"One of the hardest things to learn as a businessman is that other people can do great work and it’s okay to let go of control to the right people and let them develop their skills. If you don’t your business will either not grow or will grow very very slowly."

Taking a 5-year view - and based on the company's successful track record to date - Goldex Group's strategic aim is to "diversify into many other great brands as well as develop many of our own Goldex brands such as gyms – 'Goldex Fitness', and shared office space - 'Workspace by Goldex', " according to Diljit.

He adds: "We've recently acquired the Master Franchise for ‘Doner & Gyros’ for the UK and Europe, which is currently the largest doner based business in the world with 150 stores worldwide. 

"Over the next 5 years we expect to open at least 50 new company sites in our various brands, and at least another 50 franchised stores and are expecting our turnover and profitability to more than double."

"I view the business as a large express train now, and it's about moving swiftly forward, without  too many stops. Some great people will get on and some great people will get off, but our journey continues forever forward, onwards and upwards," says Diljit.

About the Author

Martin Morris

Martin Morris has more than 30 years of experience writing about topics for national and trade papers, ranging from banking and investment through to energy and computer security. Technology is transforming the financial landscape and it is my job, I believe, to both engage with and inform readers about the rapid changes that are underway there and elsewhere.

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